Janos Derzsi, Erika Bok and Mihaly Kormos.
The Turin Horse is a 2012 movie from the Hungarian director Bela Tarr and it is suppose to be his last movie. The famous and well respected director of well known movies like Satantango and Werckmeister Harmonies said goodbye to his directorial career with this movie, kind of hard to believe something like that. The Turin Horse marked the first time i watched any of his movie, what an unforgettable experience it was.
So this movie is based on an incident the supposedly happened with the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche in Turin, Italy. One day he steps out and sees a man beating his horse since the horse wasn't moving and was being stubborn. Nietzsche runs towards the horse, puts his arms around the horse's neck and starts crying. He lives on for 10 years after that in silence. This is how we are introduced to this movie by Tarr, this is how he got the idea of this movie upon hearing this story. The question that Tarr asked at the time he heard it was that what happened to the Horse? Though you wont see Nietzsche in this movie or anything to do with what happened to him or his side of the story but this movie basically follows the last 7 days in life of that hansom cab driver, his daughter and the horse. The movie shows their daily life, how they live and whatever they do. They seems to follow a strict ritual like lifestyle, something that reminds me of the movie Jeanne Dielman... and this is the main thing you'll see in this movie. No, i wont recommend this to those who aren't use to such movies but those who are, they are going to have an incredible experience with how Tarr shows us our world in a way that destroys our perception of life, death, nature and God. The Turin Horse contains just 30 shots which makes a single scene of about 5 to 10 minutes in length. This is one of the significant things about Tarr as his fans will know, he uses long takes and real timing to show and make us experience whatever that is going on in the movie due to the effectiveness of this technique. Tarkovsky is someone who used this throughout his career, Tarr does it too and i find it quite amazing.
Movie begins with a very long scene of the farmer on his cart and a struggling horse trying to make their way through the strong blowing gale. There is dust blowing everywhere, there seems to be no one on the road and its like they are going on some endless journey which we know is going to end sometime soon but still with all the difficulties they are facing, its a long road and they have to survive with whatever they've got. Their house is made up of rocks and sand, they live a very harsh life. The daughter helps her father with the cart when he comes home. They ties the horse in the stable and brings some food and water for him. The man changes his clothes, she prepares food which is all they eat, boiled potatoes. They eat on a table together, she then washes the dishes as they try to sleep then and in between all that, they either sit beside the window and look towards the infinite or stare at each other without saying a word. The daughter gets the water from a well near their house. This is their life, they follow strict rituals, that is what life is to them. Life is harsh, human existence is tough and heavy. Tarr doesn't presents us with pretentious life and death philosophies, he makes us see and observe what his perception of life is through his eyes. Life is what you do everyday and this is what we see in this movie, the repetitive life cycle of this family against the force of nature. As i said, its the last 7 days in life. 7th day is suppose to be the end of the world as they know it and before that can actually happen, they have to face the reality that is going to challenge them on their way to mortality.
I understand the frustration many people has regarding this movie or basically how the life of the farmer and his daughter is shown. People question why do they have to eat boiled potatoes with their hands always? Why do the girl always have to go to the well and bring water? Why live such a miserable life when they know its going to end one day (in this case, in a few days)? Where would they escape, there is nothing in this world or universe if you see, human beings are helpless and no one can go anywhere. You can't escape the nature, you can't fight with it so what you can do is live a life that you have, no matter how easy or difficult it is. Tarr began his career trying to show the lives of people in different aspects and he tried to change the world. He had to understand it first, this is what he learned and that is how he wants to end his journey. During the course of a few days, the horse that they have starts behaving strangely. He wont eat or drink anything and he grows weak. The man can't make his living without him but the horse wont move. Slowly the well starts drying up, the life as they know seems to be ending and they seems helpless against it. They get two visits, one by their neighbor who asks for something to drink. He shares his philosophies with them and the way he talks seem to recall Nietzsche but the difference being that he blames both God and human beings for the destruction of this world. Our life as helpless people on earth and the sheer force of nature seems to play an equal part in the destruction according to him. The farmer rejects his ideas calling them horse shit. The other visit they get is from a group of gypsies briefly taking over their well for water. Both of them tries to cause a rift in their life by showing or telling them about something beyond their believes but they rejects them. Both the farmer and his daughter tries to do their best with whatever they know to maintain the routine but they can't seem to change their fate or anything. The only way they could survive was the horse, when he started falling apart, their own universe started to destroy too. The wind that seems to be blowing throughout the movie, the strong gusts that never ends or slow down but instead gets stronger every day. The sound that the wind makes is quite eerie and haunting, showing us a force beyond our power that exists and inserts a strong sense of horror in our heart.
We don't know anything about these characters, where did they came from or anything. No character development of any sort but that is intentional, or else the movie would have lost its focus on the main subject it is trying to dwell into. As always, the cinematography in this movie is pitch perfect and stunning. The movie is shot is black and white, begins with a haunting score and ends with a haunting silence. Its harrowing in its depiction of hardships of life and the endurance. The movie is suppose to show us the end, the end of what? life? or the beginning of never ending void? When we reach the end of the movie, there is darkness everywhere. There seems to be no light whatsoever, the universe seems darker and more scariest than ever. The woman stops eating thinking what is the point, it is all going to end anyway. Tarr ends the world without showing any meteorite falling on earth or some mysterious planet on its way to collide with earth but he just turns the lights off. We don't see the seventh day, the seventh day is what started with the end of his final movie. Bela Tarr's final movie is a masterpiece and an incredible swan song for sure.