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The Turin Horse

The Turin Horse

Released 1 June 2012
Director Béla Tarr

János Derzsi, Erika Bók, Mihály Kormos, Ricsi
Writer(s) Béla Tarr, László Krasznahorkai
Producer(s) Gábor Téni

Hungary, France, Switzerland, Germany
Running Time 146 minutes
Genre Drama
Rating TBC

Difficult but rewarding.

In voiceover only against a black screen, the tale of the syphilitic Nietzsche's last lucid moments are narrated. Nietzche, who upon seeing a cab driver viciously whip his horse, stops the brutish scene and throws his arms around the animal's neck sobbing. Going home he lies on a divan for two days without speaking before uttering his last words “Mutter, ich bin dumm” (Mother, I am stupid). Continuing, the narration tells us Nietzsche lived for ten more years gentle but demented in the care of his mother and sisters but that of the horse we know nothing.

In The Turin Horse, his last film, Béla Tarr bids goodbye to cinema with an astounding opening epitaph.

A long arduous take is accompanied by an equally arduous string section as a hansom cab driver guides his trap down a dirt road through a whirling storm. Now we begin to learn the fate of Nietzsche's favoured horse. Ohlsdorfer, a rural farmer, lives in solitude with his daughter amidst unrelenting howling winds, his horse, the only means of their survival, slowly begins to die.

Hailed by the school of remodernist filmmakers, Tarr, is in no doubt a cinematic heavy hitter. Recalling the long lingering shots of Andrei Tarkovsky or silent reflections of Yasujiro Ozu, moments of his work certainly reach the transcendental peaks of these auteur's oeuvre. Here the audience is allowed to observe the moments between the narrative as with Ozu, like the focusing on an urn in Late Spring that reaches far above the metaphorical. Or, indeed, the time invested cinema of Tarkovsky. In The Turin Horse, or his earlier film Sátántangó, we're engaged not only with questions of mortality but with the very heaviness of existence boiled down to a basic repetitive system of tasks requisite to life. These are disadvantaged lives appraised closely and without any romanticism, there is no noble poor, only the elements and human nature. It's certainly all a foreboding feat to bear witness to and many may not enjoy this film resultantly but there are moments, even those held in complete darkness, that will effect.

- Cormac O’Brien