The Turin Horse-attachment0

The Turin Horse

Movie Information

In Brief: Another adult-sized dose of pretentious miserablism from Hungarian filmmaker Béla Tarr. This one involves a horse, a couple of peasants, potatoes and the end of the world -- all viewed in a detached manner and at a glacial pace. Some consider this profound. I am not among them.
Score:

Genre: Drama
Director: Béla Tarr and Ágnes Hranitzky
Starring: János Derzsi, Erika Bók, Mihály Kormos
Rated: NR

I would be lying if I said there was nothing good to say about this most recent film from Hungary’s master of molasses-paced miserablism. The film is beautifully photographed in black and white, and some of the camera movement is an amazing display of technical virtuousity. Also, at a mere 146 minutes, it’s considerably shorter than some of Béla Tarr’s work, but, best of all, Tarr has announced that he won’t be making any more films. This is the best news I can imagine, though the truth is that I had already decided it would be his last of his film as far as my participation as a viewer. I’ve seen three of his movies. That’s more than enough. Now, it’s only fair to note that there are people in this world who find these movies profound and consider Tarr to be one of the greatest of all filmmakers (and that we should all grovel before his greatness). If he’s a great filmmaker, give me an honest hack any day. I rarely say that I hate a movie. Hate is generally too strong a word to use — too much emotional energy to expend on a movie. I will make an exception with The Turin Horse. It put me in a bad mood for three days — and to no real point. I even briefly considered washing my hands of movies altogether (which would probably please some), but I got over that. The plain fact is neither Tarr nor his movie is worth giving that much power.

So what exactly is The Turin Horse? Well, it’s ostensibly tied to a story about Fredrich Nietzsche, but I think that’s a stretch — unless we’re to believe that the horse mentioned in the opening title is the same beast that ended up on the grim potato farm where the movie takes place. I suppose the case can be made, but this is one of those affairs where you could make a claim that the movie is about absolutely anything and no one could really disprove it. (Or prove it.) The first 30 minutes of the film are devoted to an old man (played with a complete lack of expression by frequent Tarr collaborator János Derzsi) driving his horse and cart home through a seemingly very localized windstorm. Then he and his equally expressionless daughter (another Tarr regular, Erika Bók) put the horse away, feed it and close up the barn. This is followed by her helping the old man change clothes. She then cooks potatoes, which they eat with their bare hands. (He uses salt.) Occasionally one or the other will sit and stare out the window at the barren landscape and the windstorm. Now, there’s only about two more hours to trudge through. This is about as exciting as things get. More potatoes are cooked and eaten. The horse, on the other hand, stops eating. Then…well, some say it’s art. In the words of E.B. White, “I say it’s spinach, and I say the hell with it.” You are at liberty to seek alternate views.

 

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress since December 2000. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

10 thoughts on “The Turin Horse

  1. Sean R. Moorhead

    Mister Hanke, what do you think are the chances I will like this better than you did given that Werckmeister Harmonies was one of my ten favorite movies of the last decade?

  2. Jeremy Dylan

    at a mere 146 minutes, it’s considerably shorter than some of B

  3. Ken Hanke

    what do you think are the chances I will like this better than you did given that Werckmeister Harmonies was one of my ten favorite movies of the last decade?

    I wouldn’t hazard a guess. I did find Werckmeister interesting (though I have zero desire to see it again). This strikes me as more like Satantango, though it has the advatage of not being 7 hours and 15 min. long. I simply can’t guess. I am half-inclined to believe it’s a cumulative thing with me and that anything by him that came third would have been the Lucky Strike that broke the Camel’s back, since they all seem to be slow moving movies about people I’d pay money not to meet.

  4. Xanadon't

    I am half-inclined to believe it’s a cumulative thing with me and that anything by him that came third would have been the Lucky Strike that broke the Camel’s back, since they all seem to be slow moving movies about people I’d pay money not to meet.

    This is almost exactly why I had trouble with Melancholia last year.

    Never seen anything from this filmmaker, but some of Michael Haneke’s work comes to mind, mostly The Seventh Continent I suppose. Probably the two aren’t really all that similar, but all the same I’m gonna take my inability to get excited about most anything Haneke as a sign to stay away.

  5. Ken Hanke

    You came to the wrong guy for an argument about Haneke (careful with that spelling!), but he’s pretty fast-paced next to Tarr.

  6. Orbit DVD

    They trimmed this film by 200 minutes for American consumption.

  7. Ken Hanke

    They trimmed this film by 200 minutes for American consumption.

    Too bad in a way, because if this had been handed to me and it had had a running time of 346 minutes, I’d never have watched it. Not after Satantango.

  8. Nik

    Well, the film certainly succeeded in making you depressed. Your critiques of the work seem to be more emotional than technical. Of course, you do criticize the minimalist (perhaps non-existent) storytelling and the gimmicky premise, but the technical details and even the dialogue remain untouched. When you make statements like

  9. Ken Hanke

    Well, the film certainly succeeded in making you depressed. Your critiques of the work seem to be more emotional than technical. Of course, you do criticize the minimalist (perhaps non-existent) storytelling and the gimmicky premise, but the technical details and even the dialogue remain untouched.

    I said the photography was good. I said his moving camera was masterful. That pretty much covers the technical side of this. There is no acting to speak of and only one patch of dialogue worth noting.

    When you make statements like

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