Co-produced by Robert Redford and screened at the Sundance festival, The Mustang, in U.S. theaters on Friday, is the first film by young French filmmaker Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre. It tells the story of a convict in an isolated Nevada prison tasked with taming a wild horse.
Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre’s favorite movie is Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas, which she sees as a bridge between the gaze of a European filmmaker and the mythology of the wide-open spaces of the United States. Inspired by this prestigious picture, the young French director crossed the Atlantic to make her first feature film, setting the action in a remote prison in the desert plains of Nevada.
The Mustang tells the story of Roman Coleman, a withdrawn and violent convict required to participate in a social rehabilitation program involving wild horses. As he forms a bond with a particularly difficult horse, powerful emotions bubble to the surface. Clermont-Tonnerre’s debut feature-length film stars Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts (Bullhead, Rust and Bone, The Danish Girl), who excels in the role of Roman. The film is inspired by a real-life program led for several years at a Wyoming prison where wild horses are used for inmate rehabilitation.
The French filmmaker was able to complete her project by winning the annual Sundance/NHK Award that honors emerging filmmakers and helps them realize their next project. Clermont-Tonnerre was guided and assisted by two established directors, Mona Fastvold (The Sleepwalker) and Brock Norman Brock (Bronson). Having started out as an actor, appearing in Luc Besson’s The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec, Clermont-Tonnerre stepped behind the camera in 2013 to make her first short film, Atlantic Avenue, shot in Brooklyn.