The Turin Horse (A Torinói ló) (15)
9 July 2012
The opening voiceover of Béla Tarr’s extraordinary film tells us that the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche visited Turin in 1889 and suffered a mental collapse after trying to protect a horse from its abusive master. The remainder of the movie tells us what may have become of the unfortunate animal. Set on a remote farm, The Turin Horse depicts a week in the life of an elderly man, his daughter and the horse. At first we witness their monotonous routine in meticulous detail, but as the days progress things begin to deteriorate: the horse refuses to eat; the well runs dry, and strange visitors arrive.
As ever, Tarr has refused to comment on what the film means and it is open to countless religious and political interpretations. Consisting of only 30 meticulously choreographed shots and filmed in stark black and white, it’s an austerely beautiful work.
Two of Tarr’s previous films, Werckmeister Harmonies and the seven hour-long Sátántangó are amongst the most transcendent, life-changing experiences the cinema has to offer. If The Turin Horse falls just short of this exalted status, it is still clearly the work of a master filmmaker, one who stands head and shoulders above 99% of the directors working today. Sadly, Tarr has announced that this will be his last film, and there is certainly an air of finality about this uncompromising, apocalyptic vision.