The Black and Creativity
I just recently saw, again, the classic 1979 Francis Ford Coppola movie called: “The Black Stallion”. It is a beautiful film. The cinematography of the young boy running on an empty wind swept beach with this incredibly wild and gorgeous black horse captured my heart – and somehow sparked a reflection on creativity.
What striked me throughout the movie was the love and devotion that developed between the unlikely pair of this small, freckled boy (Alec) and this majestic animal. This closeness was garnered by acts of pure survival: the stallion saved the boy from a sinking ship. Once they are stranded on the beach, the boy rescued the stallion (which he refers to as “The Black”) by cutting his many tethers that had gotten stubbornly caught on the rocks. In return, the Black saves the boy from being bitten by a poisonous snake.
This bond becomes threatened once the pair are rescued and brought back to civilization. A more suitable home (than Alec’s mom’s city back yard) is eventually found for the black stallion with a retired jockey and horse-trainer and arrangements are made for the boy to visit and care for the horse. In the end…well I don’t want to give it away.
The Black Stallion could be a metaphor for our lesser known creative selves (or the right side of our brain). We often have to face our own fear – or patterns of avoidance (stirred by the brain’s left side), to be creative. When Alec first sees the stallion on the ship, several men are trying to subdue the wild horse, in order to contain it in its stall. Despite being clearly told to “stay away”, Alec leaves sugar cubes for the mysterious Black. Later, on the beach, the boy risks his life to free the ropes on the panicking stallion. It is the boy’s initial courage, openness and responsiveness that wins him the mighty Black’s friendship.
On the beach, the stranded pair have time to forge their relationship. This resourceful child figures out how to catch fish and collect seaweed to eat and leaves food for the horse. The stallion slowly comes to trust the boy, eventually even letting Alec onto his back. The boy barely has any clothes, having been washed ashore in his pajamas. Riding the galloping horse shirtless and bareback, with sun-lit water spraying from the shoreline, seems like the ultimate visual expression of the meaning of freedom.
The movie caused me to reflect that the more time you spend developing your creativity (or whatever “The Black” might stand for, for you) , the more resilient this relationship will become in the face of life’s challenges. It’s a connection that creates freedom in one’s mind and may actually be life-saving.
The Black became extremely agitated and volatile when it felt too controlled. The relationship to our creative sides must also be guided by instinct. Just like the onlooking old African American man wisely intuits in the film: “I have a funny feeling that that horse needs to stay wild – it’s in its soul”.