Wednesday, October 12, 2011

NYFF 2011: Turin Horse (2011)

" Wooooooooooooooooooo BELA!!!!!!!!!!!" audience members when Bela Tarr stepped on stage.

"Oh Christ no." groan of an audience member when a title saying Fourth Day appeared on the screen.

A highly anticipated film at the New York Film Festival prompted shouts of joy when director Bela Tarr took the stage. It also prompted the above comments and at least 25 walkouts. Simply put it was a love it or hate it film from the master filmmaker Tarr.

Nominally the story of what might have happened to the horse who's beating sent Friedrich Nietzsche into decline,tThe film is actually the story of a driver and his daughter who go through life over six days into a personal apocalypse. I say this because if there wasn't a voice over you'd never know about Nietzsche...and frankly the voice overs aren't needed since they only add details that are pointless.

The film is simply six declining days that more or less repeat, as the pair get up, get dressed, get water, make food, and try to do something with the horse. Into the mix comes a neighbor who talks about the destruction of a town, the arrival of gypsies who take the water and leave a book, an attempt to flee and darkness....

What's it mean?

Beats the snot out of me. I don't have a clue.

Is it any good?

On some level yes it is. There is a beauty and a simplicity to it. To me had the film lost about 45 minutes this would have been a truly great film, but at two and a half hours this film in too damn long...which makes the repetition even from different angles almost intolerable at times.

In talking with people over the last few weeks I've heard the film called one of the best of the year and a complete piece of crap. That last remark coming from both long time fans and enemies of Tarr. I went in epecting to walk out since Tarr's last film, The Man From London was one of the longest 90 minutes of my life. Instead I stayed to the end...though I scooted out at the credits because I had had enough.

The film is your typical black and white long take film from Tarr. The camera moves about and things happen, slowly. The film looks not so much like a Bela Tarr film as the work of a film student aping the style of Tarr. Occasionally its classic Tarr, but often its imitation Tarr.

I don't hate the film but I didn't love it. Its a great looking film, but as I said it's too damn long. Its also terribly artificial with a wind that only seems to blow when and where our two main characters are.

Is it worth seeing?

If you're a Tarr fan. If not I'd try one of his other films like Damnation.

Frankly appreciation for the film will depend on what you bring to it, which I think is why some people are over praising it, they are finding a greatness they are bringing with it.

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