Bela Tarr’s unique ability to wrestle beauty out of the most innocuous, dusty and forlorn corners of the Eastern European landscape reaches a previously unthinkable zenith with The Turin Horse, a distillation of all his themes to date — and a self-proclaimed final cinematic statement. With every single silvery, ultra-stark long take a possible daguerreotype from a Museum of Ancient Anguish, the film presents an aging, stone-faced 19th century farmer, his equally stoic daughter, their work-battered horse, and the impossibly harsh landscape surrounding their meager farmhouse. As the film’s opening windstorm continually rises to new howling, poetic heights, our subjects forge ahead with whatever ritualistic human actions they’re able to perform (a morning shot of liquor, getting water from the well, getting dressed/undressed) in the face of increasingly unending bleakness. This is pure essence du Tarr: an absolute minimum of storyline and an absolute maximum of monolithic detail, providing an ultimate existentialist meditation — and what’s possibly the most terrifying depiction of boiled potatoes ever filmed. It is beautiful, it is brutal, and it is only truly experienced on the big screen.
Dirs. Bela Tarr & Ágnes Hranitzky, 2011, 35mm, 146 min.
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