Friday, October 28, 2011

Festival Review #10: The Turin Horse

The Tuirn Horse

(Bela Tarr and Agnes Hrantizky)

The Tuirn Horse has been making the rounds the last year or so with the proclamation that it will be Bela Tarr's last film, and I will take Tarr at his word here because he has been steadfast in this statement since he completed this film, though, as a fan, I hope he decides to make more films in future. With that out of the way, The Turin Horse premiered in Philadelphia on an appropriately chilly and rainy night with a decent sized crowd and only a few walkouts (you, unfortunately, always have to expect walkouts during a Bela Tarr film). The film is bleak, dark, spare, and quiet -- bleak even for a Bela Tarr film -- and, as opposed to larger productions like Sanatango and Werckmeister Harmonies it is a rather minimal film indeed. Tarr forgoes his usual large cast of characters and constantly shifting narratives for an intimate film which is mostly comprised of two characters, a father and a daughter, and one location, in and around their tiny brick home. The characteristic black white photography and ultra long and intricate takes are still there, but the scope is much smaller. Tarr seems to have distilled his style down to its essence with this film. There is little dialogue and almost no change in location. Save for maybe a total of 15 minutes of screen time, we are only shown the father and daughter. It feels as if Tarr had wanted to reduce his cinema down to its most bare essentials with The Turin Horse, while still focusing on his essential themes of poverty, human nature, and the fragility and transience of existence. And I think that The Turin Horse does this and it does it well, even though the film may prove to be difficult and repetitive, even for Tarr fans. At times the long takes can feel stifling within the small confines in which the film takes place, but I believe this is intentional and works toward the overall tone and ideas of the film. The film, as the the programmer who introduced it said, is both beautiful and ugly at the same time. The film is not easy, but I do not think it is supposed to be easy. Though I believe the film does and should stand on its own, I think it will work best and be the most enjoyable for those who have experienced the rest of Tarr's work. The Turin Horse is not an epic, but I think it is the work of an artist who wanted to distill their work down to its simplest possible form (and for Tarr I think this is as simple as his films will be in terms of cast, locations, and action) and see what happens. I recommend the most adventurous of film goers out there to spend the first part of their Saturday afternoon with this film. And considering tomorrow is supposed to be even rainier and colder than last night was, I think it will be the apt environment to experience this film. Go check this film out Saturday at 12:00pm at the Ritz Five and enjoy what will hopefully not be the last film by Bela Tarr.


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