Review | "The Turin Horse"
His landlord takes him home, he lies motionless and silent for two days on a divan until he mutters the obligatory last words, and lives for another ten years, silent and demented, cared for by his mother and sisters. We do not know what happened to the horse."
So begins Béla Tarr's The Turin Horse, a grim, utterly mesmerizing film purported to be the director's last. These words, read over a black screen by an unseen narrator, set the stage for the film to come. This fateful encounter with Nietzsche is the catalyst for the sparse and austere narrative to follow, which reveals itself slowly and carefully in a way that only Tarr can do.
|Erika Bók (Ohlsdorfer's daughter) in "The Turin Horse."
Courtesy of Cinema Guild.
Tarr shoots with long, languid takes that often linger minutes longer than you feel like they should. But the effect is intoxicating. Never has the simple act of cooking potatoes been so wholly entrancing. Tarr takes these seemingly commonplace acts and turns them into a kind of poetry of the mundane. There is little dialogue in the film. Tarr simply allows the camera to observe, unblinking, sometimes for minutes on end, often accompanied by composer Mihaly Vig's haunting, Phillip Glass-like score. He immerses us in these people's lives, and their impending doom, creating both an atmosphere of apprehension and mystery. What does the future hold? What lies beyond the windswept plains? Are they all alone in this blustery world? Or are they hurtling toward an inevitable, inescapable fate?
|Mihály Kormos (Bernhard) in "The Turin Horse."
Courtesy of Cinema Guild.
The Turin Horse is certainly no walk it the park, but it isn't meant to be. And as Tarr's final film, it's a staggering statement by an auteur working at the height of his powers. It's at once elegiac and fiercely relevant. Tarr is not content to go quietly into that good night. He has made a triumphant film that, if it truly does turn out to be his swansong, will be long remembered by cinephiles as one of the great final works by a director who refused to fade away quietly. While it is regrettable that we will see no more films from the Hungarian master, he has left us with a cinematic feast that should keep fans and newcomers alike talking and debating for years to come.
GRADE - ★★★★ (out of four)
THE TURIN HORSE | Directed by Béla Tarr | Stars Janos Derzsi, Erika Bok, Mihaly Kormos | Not rated | In Hungarian with English subtitles | Opens today, February 10, in select theaters.