The Turin Horse (4 stars)

The Turin Horse

Hard-going but profoundly rewarding piece of arthouse cinema from Bela Tarr

This mournful fable isn’t exactly going to win a whole new crossover audience for Hungary’s master of arthouse tough love, Béla Tarr, but it’s a compelling, vividly realised addition to his unique oeuvre. As a father and daughter scrabble for a living on their remote farm, rural life is shown in all its grimy grimness – though also lent stark beauty by Fred Keleman’s ravishing black and white cinematography. The family relies upon its ageing horse, so that when the beast begins to sicken, the prospects for this tiny, self-enclosed world seem apocalyptic. Messages from the outside world are gloomy too, with the consequence that while staying put seems like an undertaking of Sisyphean hopelessness, starting a new life elsewhere is hardly a possibility. Cheery stuff, then. First-date movie? Maybe not. But Tarr’s particular genius, as devotees know and the uninitiated should seek to find, rests in the endowment of workaday tasks and interactions with mythic grandeur, and ordinary people with mysterious dignity. This film takes work, but its effect, once you’ve opened yourself to it, is profound.

Selected release from Fri 1 Jun.


The Turin Horse

  • 4 stars
  • 2011
  • Hungary/France
  • 2h 34min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Béla Tarr, Ágnes Hranitzky
  • Written by: Béla Tarr, László Krasznahorkai
  • Cast: János Derzsi, Erika Bók, Mihály Kormos

A father and daughter scrabble for a living in a remote farm, but their livelihood is threatened when their ageing horse starts to sicken. Maybe not a first-date movie but a compellingly vivid one, in which workaday tasks are endowed with mythic grandeur and ordinary people with mysterious dignity.

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