The Turin Horse Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ July 16, 2015
Dialogues (and monologues) have never been Tárr's forte, so it is wonderful to see him make a mostly silent and simple portrayal of the burden of existence in thirty hypnotizing long takes - the most visually and narratively well polished film of his career, yet ironically his last one.
axadntpron
Super Reviewer
January 11, 2013
The Turin Horse offers all of the fun of burying your grandmother, without the comfort of having the rest of your family near. Bleak, full of mysterious beauty that is hard to put your finger on, and endlessly-bordering on obnoxiously-long. And once it is done one thing is for sure, you hope you never have to experience it again.
Bill D 2007
Super Reviewer
½ February 19, 2012
It's quite the season for ambitious but disappointing high-art cinema in New York. On the heels of Nuri Ceylan's "Once Upon a Time in Anatolia" comes the NY release of the highly avant-garde "The Turin Horse," from Hungarian bad boy Bela Tarr. The two films have a lot in common. They can now add to their long list of commonalities that they received a 5 rating from me.

In my write-up on "Anatolia," I described it as dirge-like. "Turin Horse" is even more funereal. Whereas "Anatolia" depicted human society in tatters, "Turin Horse" contemplates the end of life itself, much as Lars von Trier's "Melancholia" did, a third dirge-like high-art film on the worldwide festival circuit in 2011. Why is the European male avant-garde so depressed as of late -- and why are their films so disappointing?

"The Turin Horse" is set in the late 19th century, in a very remote corner of Hungary. A middle-aged male peasant and his adult daughter live alone. Their only livestock is a horse. These three creatures go about their daily life with their heads down, performing one mundane task after another and eating one meal a day. The horse eats hay; the humans eat (with their hands) one boiled potato per day. Tarr has us watch them eat on several occasions. Rarely have humans been compared to livestock more effectively.

But something is very strange in this world. An enormous wind storm makes it almost impossible to go outdoors. The long opening sequence shows the man and horse struggling to travel along a muddy dirt road with the massive gale at their faces. Eventually they make it back to their hovel, where the daughter silently feeds them and gets them ready for bed. The next morning, the wind hasn't died down at all.

Lucky us, we get to watch these wretched creatures wordlessly go about their daily routines for a couple more hours (total running time of "Turin" is two-and-a-half hours) while a short, annoying piece of dissonant music plays ceaselessly on the soundtrack. It resembles the sound of sick cows whining (or over-educated male intellectuals whining about their lives lacking fulfillment). I think it plays about 50 times during the screening, adding to the Chinese-water-torture quality of the film. Also on the mind-numbing soundtrack: the incessant sound of the wind.

A couple things happen at the end of "Turin Horse" that break the monotony and provide some dramatic resolution. I won't give away the details, but there is a change in the weather finally -- not for the better.

Awkwardly wrapped around this maddeningly minimalist film (which is shot in black-and-white, incidentally) is a contemplation of Friedrich Nietzsche's famous breakdown in 1889 at about the age of 45 when he was visiting the Italian city of Turin.

As legend has it, the quasi-demonic philosopher witnessed a horse being brutally whipped by its owner. In a fit of rage and pathos, Nietzsche threw his arms around the horse, sobbing inconsolably. Unable to (or refusing to) regain lucidity, he was taken to a mental hospital and never returned to normal life. He remained in the daily care of relatives for the last 10 years of his life, considered to be mentally ill. For years, most thought his mental state was caused by syphilis, but that has been drawn into question recently.

Tarr didn't just title the film in a way to demonstrate this reference to Nietzsche, he also begins the film with a narration that briefly describes the philosopher's breakdown.

Tarr may not be a great artist, but he is an authentic one. (I would say the same of Ceylan and Trier.) Thus there are some interesting things to contemplate here. On one level, it seems that Tarr is experiencing some kind of break with bourgeois civilization in a way that reminds him of Nietzsche's experience.

On another level, it seems that Tarr feels that capitalist civilization is literally destroying life, a sentiment I certainly share, at least on some levels and at some times. But while there are interesting ideas behind the project, "Turin Horse" doesn't capture these ideas very effectively. Spending two hours watching livestock (human and otherwise) on a death march is not artistically enriching for me. I'd rather spend that two hours reading Nietzsche's "Antichrist."
Super Reviewer
October 18, 2011
The story goes: "In Turin on 3rd January, 1889, Friedrich Nietzsche steps out of the doorway of number six, Via Carlo Albert. Not far from him, the driver of a hansom cab is having trouble with a stubborn horse. Despite all his urging, the horse refuses to move, whereupon the driver loses his patience and takes his whip to it. Nietzsche comes up to the throng and puts an end to the brutal scene, throwing his arms around the horse's neck, sobbing. His landlord takes him home, he lies motionless and silent for two days on a divan until he mutters the obligatory last words, and lives for another ten years, silent and demented, cared for by his mother and sisters. We do not know what happened to the horse."

Nietzsche is never specifically mentioned again after the opening voice-over, but I decided that he must be important in the viewing or understanding of The Turin Horse, because it starts off with that story. Nietzsche, despite the amount of misunderstood teenagers you see in God Is Dead t-shirts, was a very life-affirming guy. His doctrine of Eternal Recurrence asked the reader the question would you live your life eternally, rather than die?, and the idea was if you said "yes!" then you were a winner, and if you said "oh dear God, no!" then you should probably re-evaluate the way you live. In a rather cunning way, the story above describes Nietzsche as a madman, and with the concluding we do not know what happened to the horse, Tarr decides to ask his audience "would you live your life eternally, rather than die?" using the horse and driver from the story above as his subject.

There's one passage in Nietzsche's Ecce Homo that comes to mind when watching the film: "My formula for greatness in a human being is amor fati: that one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backward, not in all eternity. Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it . . . but love it." Appropriately then, The Turin Horse hardly moves forward, nor backwards, and as its detractors might note, does in fact feel like it takes eternity! Different scenes come slowly following the same ideas and basic composition, only the camera has moved to remind us that this is in fact a new day. Although I admire Tarr for being convicted enough in his ideas to actually do this, I completely understood the huge amount of people walking out of the theatres saying things like "Oh God, I'm over watching them eat potatoes!" At one stage, the characters decide to leave their isolated house and head up a hill, only to turn back again and this brings to mind Camus' The Myth of Sisyphus, cementing Tarr's pessimism and the suspicion I had that these characters are meant to represent all of mankind. There is a character who is intentionally Nietzschean here, like there was in Werckmeister Harmonies, only here he's not violent like The Prince was, but more a pessimistic prophet. Tarr described him as "a sort of Nietzschean shadow", which confuses me given Nietzsche's optimism, but this hardly matters. For Tarr, optimism belongs to the insane, and repetition and nihilism remains for the rest of us.

The repetitive structure of the film is complimented by its overall simplicity and pureness: this is the most pure and yet difficult film I have ever seen. It is entirely suitable then for nihilistic parable; those leaving because they can't stand the repetition might add to Tarr's statement on mankind, The Turin Horse is a mirror into which we're meant to look and see a simplified version of ourselves. Post-apocalyptic, post-faith, post-belief, and post-optimism. Obviously the film's audience might not be too happy accepting this, I'm a pessimistic person but don't really agree with it. It's hard to deny though that he achieves everything he sets out to, with this pure, frequently beautiful and truly harrowing work. A conversation between the insane and reality, pessimism and optimism, even if it does seem cheeky that he responds to Nietzsche's response to nihilism with, well, nihilism.
Harlequin68
Super Reviewer
½ September 26, 2013
To the casual observer, it might appear that there is nothing happening in the supremely deliberately paced, yet somehow oddly mesmerizing "The Turin Horse." Ohlsdorfer(Janos Derzsi) and his daughter(Erika Bok) might beg to differ, as this is life on their farm in microcosm that we are talking about. Granted, it is a hard life that usually consists of boiled potatoes for dinner and Ohlsdorfer's busted right arm not helping matters in the least. So, when a windstorm settles in for several days which their horse wants nothing to do with, their whole existence is under threat. However, as long as they have any brandy left, they should still be in good shape...
Cameron W. Johnson
Super Reviewer
½ August 10, 2013
"Mr. Crowley... won't you ride my Turin horse? ...It's symbolic, of course!" Opening this article with a reference to an Ozzy Osbourne probably doesn't reinforce the idea that I'm tasteful enough to tell you whether or not the critics are wrong when it comes to this "art" piece, but I feel that "Mr. Crowley" fits in this situation, because if this film is nothing else, it is... monotonous, tedious, virtually plotless, laughably pretentious... and also symbolism-heavy... I guess. Béla Tarr's message at this point has to just be that critics will accept any kind of piece of trash so long as it's different, because if you're expecting this film to be all the excitement of people talking about some horse and Jesus Christ's possible burial in Turin, the most this film does that's relevant to that potential story concept is put you to sleep for three days. Seriously, after "Sátántangó", I pretty much was expecting this film to be nothing more than a camera staring at a horse in Turin for two-and-a-half hours, but then again, "Sátántangó" was by no means as exciting as the tango with Satan that it promised in its title. Shoot, come to think of it, this film isn't too far off from my fears, because one the occasions in which you're not having to sit through Erika Bók's mug (Man, she has by no means gotten any prettier since she played that little girl in "Sátántangó"), all you're doing is watching the horse whose whipping supposedly drove Friedrich Nietzsche into a mental breakdown, only you never get the excitement of said stableman laying down said whipping which was so hardcore that it made the guy who kept preaching about the death of God say, "Mother, I am dumb", then stay quiet until he finally expired ten years later. Well, at least this film is only [b][u]"two-and-a-half hours[/b][/u], rather seven hours and a quarter (This is somehow much worse than "Sátántangó", but at least it's less than half of the length), and that's one of the best things that you can say about this piece of garbage, though it's not the only thing to commend.

This film's score is not nearly as underused as the score for "Sátántangó" ("Sátántangó" is almost three times longer than this film and it has even less musicality, it's so quiet), but it is, of course, used only so much throughout this bone-dry meditative piece, and when it does finally arrive, it's generally pretty monotonous, though it's not like I can solely dismiss Mihály Víg's musical efforts, as they have a certain ominously brooding, dark classical minimalism to them that is relatively unique and often breathes a degree of life into the film's atmosphere. Really, most every aspect of the film's audio style deserves about as much praise as it does criticism, because both Víg's score and Gábor ifj. Erdélyi's sound mixing and editing provide a certain white noise during the quiet spells - of which there are countless - that exacerbates the drowsiness which should be felt more than it is within the annoyingly overrating critics, but it is just as often relatively effective in drawing you into the film, much like the visual style. Needless to say, the black-and-white look of this film that director Béla Tarr is such a big fan of limits the potential of this film's visual style, and does no favors when it comes to settling the overwhelmingness blandness of the film, but cinematographer Fred Kelemen still impresses about as much as he can, using the black-and-white "color" palette to capture the harsh bleakness of the film, while playing with sparse lighting in a way that is consistently haunting, and sometimes stunning in an almost, maybe even decidedly gothic way. The film's style may be problematic in plenty of place, but much of it is generally effective, and that carries the final product, well, some fair degree of distance, particularly when such style is actually handled about as well it's going to be. Béla Tarr's and "editor" Ágnes Hranitzky's directorial efforts are so minimalist that it's unreal, but that's just because the film, even on paper, is about as minimalist as it can possibly get without being, I don't know, a picture or blank screen, as the directors remind you with one questionable mistake after another, but really, whether it be because you get kind of used to the film after a while, Stockholm syndrome style or something, or whatever, there are those rare occasions in which Tarr and Hranitzky nail the atmosphere they're gunning for by genuinely immersing you into this film's distinct environment and chilling you with a bleak atmosphere. Okay, allow me to retract my statement that the film's directors "nail" the atmosphere they were hoping to get, because if this film is supposed to be more than compelling is most minimal way, it fails so miserably it would be laughable if you weren't too angry and exhausted to groan, let alone chuckle, but there are those relatively effective occasions that, with the help of an impressive style, save the film from collapsing beneath simply unwatchable. Of course, the point is that, no matter how pretty the film may be, it is unwatchable, and whether that be on purpose or not, I just could not enjoy this utter piece of unbearable garbage, which doesn't even give you the common courtesy of telling you about the characters you're stuck with for two-and-a-half miserable hours.

About all this film tells you about its leads is that they are related, live on a farm and are, in the most superfluous of ways, associated with a philosopher, and I'm not asking for too much information beyond that, there is absolutely no development to these characters whose names aren't even revealed, and who serve no purpose outside of being something for this film to "focus" its meditations on, due their facing no real conflict, thus leaving you to never, ever, ever make any form of investment in the characters who bridge the ever so occasional dialogue piece with sitting, lying down, walking and eating, almost always quietly. As you can imagine, the quietness does more than just distance you from the characters, because when I say that atmospheric reinforcement is minimal, oh man, do I mean that this is one bone-dry atmosphere, whose thoughtfulness is occasionally effective, but also occasionally bland, being, more often than not, tediously dull with its numbing quietness. Again, if nothing else inspires the relatively effective occasions within the film's thoughtful atmosphere, it's your simply getting used to the film's brood, because there's nearly nothing about this cold, lifeless atmosphere, which thins pacing into total dissipation and leaves momentum to fall slave to the final product's length, which should not be felt. As if it's not bad enough that the film is glacial in its atmospheric pacing, at just under two-and-a-half hours, this meditative "drama" is way, way, way too long, being comprised of apparently only "30" shots which linger on nothing but nothing outside of life at its most monotonous, until what you end up with is a punishingly bloated film that is built strictly on filler, and I mean, "strictly", seeing as how filler cannot get excessive without being present in the first place. The film is billed as a what-if dramatization of the life of the stableman who brought legendary philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche to insanity by whipping his own defiant horse, but really, the role of the stableman and his steed in the life behind a name as weighty as that of Nietzsche is just there for the sake of being there, ostensibly to build some kind of an obligatory synopsis, as this could be any stableman and any horse, - it doesn't matter - because as much as it's gotten to be popular to call some kind of a lame-brain blockbuster or aimless comedy "plotless", or to say that nothing happens in other overly arty experimental pieces of this nature, this film is literally without a narrative, being a two-and-a-half-hour-long meditation upon absolutely no substance whatsoever, just filler, which is purposeful, sure, seeing as how this film is a deliberate showcase of the monotony within the lives of its nameless and undeveloped leads on some barren potato farm, but so pointless, it's impossible to imagine that this project was anything more than a joke (For the record, the review that you're reading right now was written entirely while I was watching the film without pausing, knowing that there's nothing to miss). I sincerely wish that I was kidding in my bold statement that this film is virtually plotless, but make no bones about it, people, there is no exposition, conflict, focus or structure to this character study, and such a move is indeed daringly, almost respectably new, but for a reason, as everyone should know that it is completely impossible for this kind of idea to work, yet that doesn't stop Béla Tarr from gunning for it, and having the nerve to figuratively stare you dead in the face and demand that you appreciate his comically misguided non-effort. On top of being dull, bloated and unfocused to an incomprehensible degree, the film is offensively pretentious, and I can't even begin to vocalize how frustrated I am to see these equally pretentious art drones with the audacity to title themselves "film critic" humor Tarr, because even though the sheer boldness of the project, combined with an impressive technical style, lovely visual style, and the occasional moment of genuine relative effectiveness, keep the film firmly secured from the point of falling beneath a whole number on my rating system, this is, if anything, an offense to artistry which has to be seen in order to be believed, but should by no means be suffered.

Bottom line, Mihály Víg's unique score has a certain effectiveness to its brooding tastefulness, and Fred Kelemen's cinematography captures the tone of the film, often with a gorgeousness to its sparseness, while relatively effective moments within the immersion value of Béla Tarr's and Ágnes Hranitzky's direction give you glimpses of a really bad, and therefore considerably superior film, but when it's all said and done, there really is no exposition or, for that matter, narrative, and with such a punishing non-premise being made all the more grating by a terribly unreasonable length of two-and-a-half hours, an atmospheric dryness that impossibly tedious, and an infuriating pretense in the air, "The Turin Horse" is left to fall flat as an utterly unwatchable portrait of artistry at its most misguided.

1/5 - Dreadful
Super Reviewer
½ September 27, 2012
If there ever was fitting film to match Abbas Kiarostamiâ(TM)s quote âI donâ(TM)t mind if someone falls asleep while watching a film, as long as they dream about it afterâ? it is Belá Tarrâ(TM)s most recent and apparently swan song film. It is one of the most boring, dull and sluggishly paced film that you will have watched but it has more resonance than a 8.0 earthquake. It shatters your perceptions of humanity and forces you to rebuild, or convince yourself that life isnâ(TM)t totally meaningless.
The withered faces, the brush of wind, the struggle of light and the potatoes, potatoes, potatoes create monotony that Tarrâ(TM)s marvellous one take shots guides through the viewers eyes, into their brain and forces them to contemplate. There are moments of grandeur in the mundane too every time Mihaly Vigâ(TM)s monstrous, lingering score drifts in like a weight on your concious.
It is a film relentless in itâ(TM)s forever grey filter of the world and is something Nietzsche would be proud of. The movie in fact starts with the story of Nietzsche seeing the a horse being beaten which put a halt on all his though and put him in bed till death. Evoking this Belá Tarr calls the end of his illustrious career by showing us the dire state of humanity that Nietzsche was lucky enough to see and tempting us to follow in his footsteps.
½ June 12, 2015
A film like The Turin Horse makes me feel stupid. Perhaps I am just not 'getting' it, as apparently most critics did when they saw the film - presumably, according to the director (still in his 50's) his last). And it's not like I came to this filmmaker ignorant of his craft and style; sitting through all 450 minutes of Satantango was one of the most mysterious, satisfying if strange filmmaking experiences I've ever had, and that was not without its stretches of time without much "going on" as it were in the usual narrative sense.

The idea with The Turin Horse, co-directed by Agnes Hranitzszky, is that Frederich Nietzche saved a horse from being whipped in a town square in the late 19th century, and the horse was removed from its owner and given to another. Tarr could have filmed that sequence - which happened in real life, and further sounds to me like the dream sequence from Crime & Punishment involving a whipped horse, certainly from the opening narration a very cinematic and dramatic turn of events - but he chooses to go right into the story of this old farmer bringing the horse to his tiny not-much-of-a-farm with his daughter, and watch over the course of five/six days their downfall.

The thing you should know going into this, if you haven't seen Tarr before, is that he does long takes. All the time. Maybe the shortest shot in this runtime is about 4 minutes. It's certainly not easy to pull this off, everything has to be choreographed and timed just right, and that is certainly a testament to Fred Kinemen's cinematography. For me, actually, if it's anyone's masterpiece it's Kinemen's, who in black and white and usually in a camera that moves, gets the dust and wind and darkness and despair down just right visually speaking. There are many shots in the film, like the one where the farmer and his daughter, in the one sort of moment of story "progression", tries to get away from the farm to somewhere else, and the camera shows them off on the hillside, with a dead, lonely tree up top, and the wind blowing in the foreground. That's great.

But why then say that this movie makes me feel 'stupid'. Well, I just didn't 'get' it, I guess. Perhaps there's something to be said for this being some sort of transcendental experience or other, that what the movie is pretty much 'about' - watching the pitiless routines of cooking food, fetching water from a well, trying to make a horse eat, putting on clothes - is supposed to make us hypnotized. The sort of real-time, meditative, sort of deadpan and minimalist filmmaking of Satantango had that too, as I'm sure Tarr's other films do, but there was more going on there, more to actual see and note in the characters. Maybe that's part of the point, that this farmer and his daughter, without any electricity or books (well, until a gypsey happens to give one to her, not a long story, they happen by the house in one of the only times other humans interact with them) or any curiosity past living from one day to the next, have made this life and eventual death for themselves. And I can be mesmerized watching routine; Jeanne Dielman is one of the highlights of 1970's French cinema.

So what's missing here? Is it missing in myself to not meet the material more than halfway? I don't know. There may be something that Nietzsche is used as this catalyst for the story at all - that there's something to these lives 'Between Good and Evil', or to his philosophy expressed here. Maybe it's about how the breakdown of the world is meant to be comparable to Tarr seeing the breakdown of cinema, with himself leaving the medium (at least for the time being). And to be fair, as more 'things' happen to this father and daughter, I started to get more intrigued. I wanted to meet the film more than halfway, as this director is the epitome of uncompromising, dead-serious art house filmmakers. And there's just enough for me to recommend it to die-hard admirers of this sort of rigorous filmmaking with maybe like 50 shots in the whole run time. I simply wish there had been a sliver more 'there' there in terms of these two people, despite that being the point of the nothingness of existence and so on.
½ November 20, 2011
opens with the story of the turin horse over a black screen, followed with "but of the horse we no nothing", what follows is what Bresson did for donkeys and jesus Tar does for horses and existential despair. The owners of the horse live in a barren field with only dead tree dotting the landscape, the spitting image of Smashing Pumpkins group photo. their lives consist of eating potatoes, dressing, undressing, and laying in bed silently. the horse given up on life refuses to eat or move. word comes first from a drunk, that the world is ending. a constant wind never lets up. and it goes on for 2 and half hour like that largely in silence and mostly darkness, til even the lights begin to die. this was probably the bleakest film Ive ever see, but tarr was friendly enough. "remember the sun is still shining outside" was the first thing he said. i talked to him a little in the cigarette area outside the theater, he just appeared out of nowhere looking for an ashtray, nice fella. anyway this was good, painterly, but too tedious, I get that was part of the point, "life sucks and then we all quietly fade into darkness", but I don't feel that to be true. That's what Tarr suggested we do with the film "do not analyze, see with your eyes, and feel with your heart", and life is more than potatoes and silence, even if it is all meaningless and doomed, Melancholia enforces this and was full of life in ways this film was full of nothingness. But for films about nothingness, monotony, and pointless struggle this is the best.
½ February 21, 2015
Perhaps if this were your very first Bela Tarr film (and he suggests that it is his very last), then this would be a more intense and compelling experience -- as I had when I saw Sátántangó as my introduction. Tarr revisits the tone and style of that earlier seven hour film in this shorter one (only 2 1/2 hours but composed of just 30 long shots). That is to say, this is a bleak but beautiful, slow and hypnotizing, high contrast black and white stare at repetitive peasant life in the midst of an endless possibly apocalyptic windstorm. Tarr famously refuses to be drawn as to whether there is any deeper meanings to his films, although we are told it is based on an anti-theology and this is an anti-creation film - in the six days of the story, the world fades to black (let there be dark, indeed). If the starting point of this entire script is the question of what happened to the horse that Nietzsche famously saved from flogging, you might think that his philosophy is somehow a key to unlocking things here - and a visitor seeking palinka (Hungarian fruit brandy) does spout some "beyond good and evil" beliefs - but our lead character calls them "bullshit". This may be an example of Tarr's sense of humor, if he has one. The horse dies anyway.
January 15, 2015
PUTA MERDA, GENTE. Estou abismada que demorei tanto pra assistir essa obra-prima.
December 4, 2014
???? ???? ?????? ?? ???? ?????
July 1, 2012
Excellent photographical essay on a world winding down
½ May 19, 2013
It's beautifully, hauntingly, eerily, perfectly, shot and scored, but the story and overall monotone nature (while probably intentional), just ends up wearing you down by the end of the film. It's unrelentingly bleak in nature, slow paced, with long takes. It's not at all for casual audience, but if you like weighty parables, look no further. I definitely don't think the movie compares with Tarr's earlier work, particular Harmonies, which I maintain is his masterpiece. This is supposedly Tarr's last film, and in some ways it would be a fitting end. I just wish he made something a bit more engaging.
December 6, 2013
Brilliant and miserable
Harlequin68
Super Reviewer
½ September 26, 2013
To the casual observer, it might appear that there is nothing happening in the supremely deliberately paced, yet somehow oddly mesmerizing "The Turin Horse." Ohlsdorfer(Janos Derzsi) and his daughter(Erika Bok) might beg to differ, as this is life on their farm in microcosm that we are talking about. Granted, it is a hard life that usually consists of boiled potatoes for dinner and Ohlsdorfer's busted right arm not helping matters in the least. So, when a windstorm settles in for several days which their horse wants nothing to do with, their whole existence is under threat. However, as long as they have any brandy left, they should still be in good shape...
½ July 21, 2013
A bore! Really deserves no stars! Tarr wants to show you how boring and repetitive the life's of these people were back in the 19th century by just laying his camera in place and shooting them doing mundane repetitive tasks and forcing his audience to watch for a painful and slow moving 2:26 minutes! Boring and tedious. It is almost like watching a full day security tape of people working at the yard and nothing important happens!
½ August 11, 2013
Horribly boring, dull and repetitive pretentious "art"-garbage. Literally NOTHING happens during the course of 2 1/2 hours, apart from two people eating potatoes and going to the well to get water. People who like this kind of thing must be masochists.
Cameron W. Johnson
Super Reviewer
½ August 10, 2013
"Mr. Crowley... won't you ride my Turin horse? ...It's symbolic, of course!" Opening this article with a reference to an Ozzy Osbourne probably doesn't reinforce the idea that I'm tasteful enough to tell you whether or not the critics are wrong when it comes to this "art" piece, but I feel that "Mr. Crowley" fits in this situation, because if this film is nothing else, it is... monotonous, tedious, virtually plotless, laughably pretentious... and also symbolism-heavy... I guess. Béla Tarr's message at this point has to just be that critics will accept any kind of piece of trash so long as it's different, because if you're expecting this film to be all the excitement of people talking about some horse and Jesus Christ's possible burial in Turin, the most this film does that's relevant to that potential story concept is put you to sleep for three days. Seriously, after "Sátántangó", I pretty much was expecting this film to be nothing more than a camera staring at a horse in Turin for two-and-a-half hours, but then again, "Sátántangó" was by no means as exciting as the tango with Satan that it promised in its title. Shoot, come to think of it, this film isn't too far off from my fears, because one the occasions in which you're not having to sit through Erika Bók's mug (Man, she has by no means gotten any prettier since she played that little girl in "Sátántangó"), all you're doing is watching the horse whose whipping supposedly drove Friedrich Nietzsche into a mental breakdown, only you never get the excitement of said stableman laying down said whipping which was so hardcore that it made the guy who kept preaching about the death of God say, "Mother, I am dumb", then stay quiet until he finally expired ten years later. Well, at least this film is only [b][u]"two-and-a-half hours[/b][/u], rather seven hours and a quarter (This is somehow much worse than "Sátántangó", but at least it's less than half of the length), and that's one of the best things that you can say about this piece of garbage, though it's not the only thing to commend.

This film's score is not nearly as underused as the score for "Sátántangó" ("Sátántangó" is almost three times longer than this film and it has even less musicality, it's so quiet), but it is, of course, used only so much throughout this bone-dry meditative piece, and when it does finally arrive, it's generally pretty monotonous, though it's not like I can solely dismiss Mihály Víg's musical efforts, as they have a certain ominously brooding, dark classical minimalism to them that is relatively unique and often breathes a degree of life into the film's atmosphere. Really, most every aspect of the film's audio style deserves about as much praise as it does criticism, because both Víg's score and Gábor ifj. Erdélyi's sound mixing and editing provide a certain white noise during the quiet spells - of which there are countless - that exacerbates the drowsiness which should be felt more than it is within the annoyingly overrating critics, but it is just as often relatively effective in drawing you into the film, much like the visual style. Needless to say, the black-and-white look of this film that director Béla Tarr is such a big fan of limits the potential of this film's visual style, and does no favors when it comes to settling the overwhelmingness blandness of the film, but cinematographer Fred Kelemen still impresses about as much as he can, using the black-and-white "color" palette to capture the harsh bleakness of the film, while playing with sparse lighting in a way that is consistently haunting, and sometimes stunning in an almost, maybe even decidedly gothic way. The film's style may be problematic in plenty of place, but much of it is generally effective, and that carries the final product, well, some fair degree of distance, particularly when such style is actually handled about as well it's going to be. Béla Tarr's and "editor" Ágnes Hranitzky's directorial efforts are so minimalist that it's unreal, but that's just because the film, even on paper, is about as minimalist as it can possibly get without being, I don't know, a picture or blank screen, as the directors remind you with one questionable mistake after another, but really, whether it be because you get kind of used to the film after a while, Stockholm syndrome style or something, or whatever, there are those rare occasions in which Tarr and Hranitzky nail the atmosphere they're gunning for by genuinely immersing you into this film's distinct environment and chilling you with a bleak atmosphere. Okay, allow me to retract my statement that the film's directors "nail" the atmosphere they were hoping to get, because if this film is supposed to be more than compelling is most minimal way, it fails so miserably it would be laughable if you weren't too angry and exhausted to groan, let alone chuckle, but there are those relatively effective occasions that, with the help of an impressive style, save the film from collapsing beneath simply unwatchable. Of course, the point is that, no matter how pretty the film may be, it is unwatchable, and whether that be on purpose or not, I just could not enjoy this utter piece of unbearable garbage, which doesn't even give you the common courtesy of telling you about the characters you're stuck with for two-and-a-half miserable hours.

About all this film tells you about its leads is that they are related, live on a farm and are, in the most superfluous of ways, associated with a philosopher, and I'm not asking for too much information beyond that, there is absolutely no development to these characters whose names aren't even revealed, and who serve no purpose outside of being something for this film to "focus" its meditations on, due their facing no real conflict, thus leaving you to never, ever, ever make any form of investment in the characters who bridge the ever so occasional dialogue piece with sitting, lying down, walking and eating, almost always quietly. As you can imagine, the quietness does more than just distance you from the characters, because when I say that atmospheric reinforcement is minimal, oh man, do I mean that this is one bone-dry atmosphere, whose thoughtfulness is occasionally effective, but also occasionally bland, being, more often than not, tediously dull with its numbing quietness. Again, if nothing else inspires the relatively effective occasions within the film's thoughtful atmosphere, it's your simply getting used to the film's brood, because there's nearly nothing about this cold, lifeless atmosphere, which thins pacing into total dissipation and leaves momentum to fall slave to the final product's length, which should not be felt. As if it's not bad enough that the film is glacial in its atmospheric pacing, at just under two-and-a-half hours, this meditative "drama" is way, way, way too long, being comprised of apparently only "30" shots which linger on nothing but nothing outside of life at its most monotonous, until what you end up with is a punishingly bloated film that is built strictly on filler, and I mean, "strictly", seeing as how filler cannot get excessive without being present in the first place. The film is billed as a what-if dramatization of the life of the stableman who brought legendary philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche to insanity by whipping his own defiant horse, but really, the role of the stableman and his steed in the life behind a name as weighty as that of Nietzsche is just there for the sake of being there, ostensibly to build some kind of an obligatory synopsis, as this could be any stableman and any horse, - it doesn't matter - because as much as it's gotten to be popular to call some kind of a lame-brain blockbuster or aimless comedy "plotless", or to say that nothing happens in other overly arty experimental pieces of this nature, this film is literally without a narrative, being a two-and-a-half-hour-long meditation upon absolutely no substance whatsoever, just filler, which is purposeful, sure, seeing as how this film is a deliberate showcase of the monotony within the lives of its nameless and undeveloped leads on some barren potato farm, but so pointless, it's impossible to imagine that this project was anything more than a joke (For the record, the review that you're reading right now was written entirely while I was watching the film without pausing, knowing that there's nothing to miss). I sincerely wish that I was kidding in my bold statement that this film is virtually plotless, but make no bones about it, people, there is no exposition, conflict, focus or structure to this character study, and such a move is indeed daringly, almost respectably new, but for a reason, as everyone should know that it is completely impossible for this kind of idea to work, yet that doesn't stop Béla Tarr from gunning for it, and having the nerve to figuratively stare you dead in the face and demand that you appreciate his comically misguided non-effort. On top of being dull, bloated and unfocused to an incomprehensible degree, the film is offensively pretentious, and I can't even begin to vocalize how frustrated I am to see these equally pretentious art drones with the audacity to title themselves "film critic" humor Tarr, because even though the sheer boldness of the project, combined with an impressive technical style, lovely visual style, and the occasional moment of genuine relative effectiveness, keep the film firmly secured from the point of falling beneath a whole number on my rating system, this is, if anything, an offense to artistry which has to be seen in order to be believed, but should by no means be suffered.

Bottom line, Mihály Víg's unique score has a certain effectiveness to its brooding tastefulness, and Fred Kelemen's cinematography captures the tone of the film, often with a gorgeousness to its sparseness, while relatively effective moments within the immersion value of Béla Tarr's and Ágnes Hranitzky's direction give you glimpses of a really bad, and therefore considerably superior film, but when it's all said and done, there really is no exposition or, for that matter, narrative, and with such a punishing non-premise being made all the more grating by a terribly unreasonable length of two-and-a-half hours, an atmospheric dryness that impossibly tedious, and an infuriating pretense in the air, "The Turin Horse" is left to fall flat as an utterly unwatchable portrait of artistry at its most misguided.

1/5 - Dreadful
May 8, 2013
sublime, gets under your skin in a good way.
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