The Turin Horse Reviews
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.
This film starts of with some words involving German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche and when he gets struck by serious mental illness. When the film starts we get naturalistic scenes, slow scenes, long scenes, windy scenes, static scenes. When there are movement it's beautiful but slow. When the images are still, they never really are, there are something moving. Steam, fire or something. The people involved utter no words. The horse is the best actor of the film, that's pretty cool.
Hounting music is key combined with the imagery. Astonishing cinematography and camerawork
It's a film you can leave for 20 minutes and you won't miss out on much, almost nothing at all. That's how slow it is. It's also repitative. Actually, the film is so slow that shots freeze, sometimes after focusing, onto a wall or something for 30 seconds before we get some camera movement or some sort of cut. My mind is twitching and turning, especially near the end while the lightening and images are magical.
A film that's definitely looks at it's best in black and white, it creates the right cold atmosphere.
It's difficult to rate this haunting, but in a way a really, really boring film as well. Long, rare and definitely something different for a limited audience. This two and a half hour long film is divided into 30 takes and got it's feet into the art landscape, and it stays miles away from thrilling and entertaining features.
8.5 out of 10 potatoes.
The monotonous dirge is a really suitable soundtrack.
Second Day: Touching, acquiring and therefore debasing
Third Day: God watches all over you
Fourth Day: Scarcity
Fifth Day: Darkness and silence
Sixth Day: Death
Predominant elements throughout the days: A storm raging outside and moving everything that can be found in the air and on the ground, like trying to reach a destination, shadows, cotidianity occupying three alienated souls (two humans, one animal), a strong wind heard while outside, ghastly and scary wind sounds from the inside, repentance, mysteries unspoken, emotional detachment, water and potatoes.
Bonus feature: Presented in the Second Day: A destructive critique to civilization throughout the centuries against authority and other godly figures attempting to establish their false omnipresence above everybody else, until a worldwide populace realizes that those trying to embody godly roles actually represent false promises and attempt to tear the system down.
The moment in which the horse started to cry, my soul escaped my body and tears attempted to escape through my eyes. If this is meant to be the final testament from a film-making master, I shall embrace every single "post-neorealist" fragment and landscape he tried to represent throughout 5 decades, culminating in his most death-oriented statement composed by 30 shots with an average length of exactly 4 minutes and 52 seconds each.
P.S. It surprises me that this is the most acclaimed film by the director, and also the most famous. Not arguing about this master farewell's greatness, this wouldn't even be in his Top 3.