The Turin Horse
(A torinói ló)
There are certain things in life that are extremely difficult to define. The Turin Horse, which won the 2011 Jury Grand Prize at the Berlin International Film Festival, is one of these indefinable things; a patience testing two-and-a-half hour work of art that straddles the line between the sublime and the monotonous. Directed by Hungarian auteur Béla Tarr (best known for 1994’s 7-hour epic Sátántangó), this isn’t a movie for those who like plot, character development, or even incident. In fact, this probably isn’t a movie for nearly anyone aside from Béla Tarr junkies or followers of art-house cinema. What follows is a black and white exercise in mood in which the director uses long takes, endless steadicam camera moves, elegant compositions, and a droning score by Mihály Víg to focus on the minimalistic life of a farmer and his daughter living in an isolated cabin. Things unfolds in a series of mundane activities—dressing, eating boiled potatoes, fetching water from a well, sitting placidly in front of windows—all the while a ravage windstorm grows increasingly violent with each passing day. Likely to be a polarizing effort in which audiences can claim “nothing happens”, The Turin Horse (which is reportedly Tarr’s final film) is instead a movie in which everything is happening all the time, only the two characters cannot fully understand the implications of the storm brewing outside because they are trapped inside an existence of routine. If one is able to get on the movie’s wavelength, (cinephiles will especially appreciate the breathtaking cinematography and Tarr’s supreme command with the camera), there are rewards to be had in the elegiac pacing and dazzling use of mise-en-scène.