"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