Films: The Turin Horse

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The Turin Horse  {A torinói ló}

The Turin Horse
A torinói ló

Hungary, 2011, 146 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: Drama, Historical/Period, Literary
Program: Contemporary World Cinema
Language: Hungarian English Subtitles

Producer: Gábor Téni
Editor: Ágnes Hranitzky
Screenwriter: László Krasznahorkai, Béla Tarr
Cinematographer: Fred Kelemen
Principal Cast: János Derzsi, Erika Bók, Mihály Kormos

In the film he says will be his last, Hungarian director Belá Tarr (Satantango, The Man From London) conducts a grim, fascinating, 146-minute study of the grueling everyday tasks a weather-beaten 19th-century farmer and his long-suffering daughter must complete, again and again, in order to survive. But first, Tarr provides an intellectual key of sorts. On January 3, 1889, we are told, the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche beheld, on a street in Turin, Italy, the sight of a horse being mercilessly whipped by its angry owner. Distraught and sobbing, Nietzsche threw his arms around the animal's neck: then the author of Beyond Good and Evil promptly retreated into silence and madness for the last 10 years of his life. Truth or fiction? No one knows.

In The Turin Horse, beautifully shot in black and white by Tarr's longtime collaborator, Fred Kelemen, the horse of the myth becomes an enigmatic, nagging presence in the lives of the struggling farmers. He even refuses to serve them. Is he a symbol of universal suffering? Of humanity's failures? Something else? There are no easy answers to Tarr's extended metaphysical riddle. Like Nietzsche's twilight, the film unfolds mostly in silence, interrupted by a howling wind and a minimalist organ-and-violin score by Mihaly Vig. Strangely hypnotic and relentlessly desolate, it unfolds on as many levels as we choose to see.

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