"The Turin Horse": Hungarian Slow Cinema Illustrates Futility

In the first image of The Turin Horse, a coachman with the face of a Biblical patriarch (Janos Derzsi) drives his horse into the teeth of a gale. He arrives home to a forlorn, forgotten valley where the remainder of the film takes place. His daughter (Erika Bok) helps him unhitch the horse, undresses her father, puts him into house clothes — we notice then that one of his arms is lame — lugs well water, and prepares their dinner of one boiled potato each, which he eats with joyless animal ravening. When there is a lull in the daily chores, they take turns staring out the window and watch the incessant tempest blow. We will watch them repeat these same domestic rituals with variations in camera choreography and performance in taxing real time, through the six largely housebound days that make up The Turin Horse — six days being enough to suggest the infinite loop, the interminable, trudging, dray horse life that has preceded what we see. A film of stark, silvery, daguerreotype beauty, the latest from Bela Tarr, the Hungarian patron saint of slow cinema, is an experience comparable to starting down the road with an empty sack then, over the course of the journey, having it weighed down steadily with rocks until you can't go on any further. This cannot be considered an artistic failure, as it's exactly what Tarr is going for.

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