The Turin Horse (2011)

Bela Tarr apparently shut down his filmmaking company recently, as if to prove he was serious about this being his last film. If it is, then he was clearly determined to go out on a difficult note. Apparently he had the idea for it in the mid-80s when Laszlo Krasznahorkai told him the story that opens the film about Nietzsche in Turin witnessing the horse being whipped, but held off making the film for a good long time… In typical Tarr fashion, long takes in black and white tell the story of a farmer, his daughter, and their horse (who may or may not be the horse in the Nietzsche story) as they weather a titanic wind storm that may or may not portend the apocalypse or something like it. It’s an arduous tale of arduous lives, spent in isolation with few outsiders intruding, doing the same thing everyday in the face of complete pointlessness. I found an article with the film’s cinematographer, Fred Kelemen, in which Beckett is invoked, and I got that sort of feeling watching it: the “I can’t go on, I’ll go on” thing, carrying on just because it’s what you’re supposed to do, and a similar sense as in Endgame that there actually isn’t that much of an “outside”. Cf. what their one visitor says in his rant about the wind blowing the town away. Needless to say Turin Horse is a (very) slow burner and I found it somewhat testing at times, but I got into its particular grim vibe as it went on, and I will confess to finding the last ten minutes or so, when the darkness suddenly descends, kind of terrifying, and the narrator’s remark about the storm being over not even remotely reassuring. Hard to recommend the film to someone not normally into this sort of stuff, obviously—you wouldn’t use it to introduce someone to European arthouse cinema, it’s more of an advanced course—but certainly powerful, and a hell of a note for Tarr to bow out on…

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One thought on “The Turin Horse (2011)

  1. Tyler May 30, 2012 at 6:10 am

    Damn, I love this one. Easily my third favourite Tarr after Werckmeister Harmonies and Satantango. My favourite shot is the one where the farmer and his daughter disappear behind a hill for about a minute and then reappear, their horse leading them back home. Haunting.

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