Wednesday, August 03, 2011

THE TURIN HORSE (Bela Tarr, 2011)

***½
Hungary
The titular horse (which reportedly drove Nietzsche mad) only pops up occasionally, to brood and act deflated. I think the implication is that it knows something. I think the horse is playing Kirsten Dunst in Melancholia.

This is the Bela Tarr Experience cranked up to eleven. The horse's craggy owner and his equally craggy daughter are the protagonists. A force five gale has them trapped in their isolated hut amidst a barren plain. The majority of the action is taken up with six days worth of their ascetic, mind-numbing day-to-day routine: dressing the old man, drawing water from the well, sitting down to a meal of boiled potatoes, staring out the window, downing some home-made spirits, some more potatoes, then some more staring out the window.

Tarr is a pretentious filmmaker, for sure, and indulgent, and morbidly depressed. But also a little bit brilliant. He draws you into his gloomy worlds through a peerless sense for light, composition and movement and a relentless series of stark, entrancing images:

Within a single take, through a slight camera move, he can render a poky hut cavernous. When the horseman's daughter sets the potatoes to boil and takes her seat by the window, the leaves on the tattered plain flutter up at just the right moment and it's poetry. In a later section, from the other side of the window, we come across her staring out once again, this time looking ghostly and beaten. What should be a mundane, familiar sighting is instead eerie and devastating.

In a sense this feeling sums up the film itself: scenes that should be rote and ludicrous inexplicably coming off as poetic and transfixing.

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