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The Turin Horse DVD Review

by Luke Ryan Baldock

Director: Bela Tarr

Starring: Janos Derzsi, Erika Bok, Mihaly Kormos

Running Time: 147 minutes

Certificate: 15

Extras: Bela Tarr’s first short HOTEL MAGNEZIT

THE TURIN HORSE is Bela Tarr’s self-proclaimed last film and boy is it a corker. THE TURIN HORSE begins with an apocryphal tale in which Nietzsche sobs over a horse that has been whipped for refusing to move. The tale ends saying that nobody knows what happened to the horse. We are suddenly thrust into a shot of a horse travelling along in the most beautiful black and white photography I have ever seen. Cinematographer Fred Keleman picks out just about every shade of grey imaginable. He gets so many different greys, whites and blacks that it bursts off the screen more so than many colour efforts.

It soon becomes apparent that this first take is unusually long. In fact, the entire film is made up of just 30 takes, each one impeccably crafted and obviously rehearsed as the camera knows precisely where to go and when to get there. Despite long stretches of motion, the camera always frames the action or characters impeccably. This film really is like visiting a museum and checking out a moving photograph. It’s hypnotic and serene qualities created euphoria whilst watching it.

The film has no real plot to speak of and it is long, repetitive and purposefully dull. These sound like negatives, and for any other film they probably would be. We follow the life of a simple man and his daughter and their life on a farm. Every day is almost exactly the same and Tarr is insistent on showing us every mundane detail. The man arrives home, puts the horse away, his daughter helps him undress (he has lost the use of one of his arms), she boils two potatoes, they eat, they go to bed. We see these rituals in their entirety over each of the six days this film follows. Some days see an event, such as a visitor coming to borrow some drink, or gypsies stealing water from the well. Throughout all of this, the horse stops eating and rarely moves.

The film has very little dialogue, but is brought alive by an unforgettable score that involves gloomy strings and an ominous organ. It’s a wonderful accompaniment to these gorgeous images and full credit must be given to Mihaly Vig.With long stretches of no dialogue the music becomes the star for the majority of the film.

THE TURIN HORSE is not for everyone. You have to be willing to be sucked in by the visuals and be taken on this journey. Don’t bother asking “When is something going to happen?” because, like in life itself, that only makes the slower sections seem longer. Tarr’s final effort is an attack on the destructive nature of man, but also the fragility of life. Some people are destined to perform the same tasks over and over again and it’s the moments we don’t plan that will seem most challenging but also most memorable. A true haunting artistic gem.

Extras: The one extra on this disc is director Bela Tarr’s first short film HOTEL MAGNEZIT. It sees an old man accused of stealing from others in a hostel where he stays and is being kicked out. He argues with the other residents and speaks of his past. It’s nice to see how Tarr has evolved as a filmmaker. This film is also in black and white, but it is very scratched and grainy. The camer work is not as ambitious, but it does show Tarr handling lengthy segments of dialogue rather well. A nice addition, especially if you are looking into the full spectrum of Tarr’s work.

 THE TURIN HORSE is available to buy on DVD and Blu-ray from 10th September 2012. You can purchase it here.

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