• The Hungarian master, Bela Tarr, proclaimed The Turin Horse to be his last film at age 56. That’s regrettable, but if it is true, he’ll finish with a gigantic masterpiece.
  • The Turin Horse is Tarr’s ninth film.
  • It doesn’t have the saga-like sprawl of Satantango or Werckmeister Harmonies. Here, the location is confined (one farm, a barn, a house with one room, and the area directly surrounding). János Derzsi plays Ohlsdorfer, Erika Bók plays his daughter, and Mihály Kormos plays Bernard (Tarr himself called him some sort of Nietzschean shadow of a character). The horse is really the only other character except for the band of gypsies that come to take some water and hand Ohlsdorfer’s daughter an ominous book.
  • With the black and white photography, parable, and focus on the animal (Tarr is really saying we’re all the whipped animal) it is hard to not think of Bresson’s Au Hasard Balthazar
  • An omniscient narrator that chimes in several times including the prologue- the story of a horse getting whipped and Nietzsche. The lights slowly come up and Tarr starts with a four-minute shot of the horse pulling Ohlsdorfer to Mihály Vig’s hypnotic jib of a string score accompaniment- what an extraordinary opening shot.

The lights slowly come up and Tarr starts with a four-minute shot of the horse pulling Ohlsdorfer to Mihály Vig’s hypnotic jib of a string score accompaniment- what an extraordinary opening shot.

  • Chapter breaks for each day, we’re talking about the anti-creation story here, another Tarr film about the apocalypse. The setting is bleak, sunless. The narrator calls it a “gale”- the wind is relentless. Victor Sjöström’s 1928 silent film The Wind is more of a melodrama but it is hard not to make that comparison as well. If you include title cards from the 1928 film as dialogue, Tarr’s film is really more of a silent film.
  • At the 11-minute mark the camera dives into the barn and then looks outside using the doors as a perfect frame with the bare tree in the background- stunning photography.

a repeated shot- from inside the barn, the doorway creating a frame within the frame, the bare tree in the grey sky background

  • Elongated, relaxed, controlled takes— there are roughly 30 shots in the 155-minute running time. This is Bela Tarr.

the daughter at the window at 19-minutes—jaw-droppingly beautiful

another with the father at the same window at 25-minutes

  • The first dialogue “it’s ready” talking about the potato at the 21-minute mark.
  • Austere, minimal, Dreyer

The vice is slowly tightening so to speak- day 1 Ohlsdorfer notices the woodworm noises are gone, I think day three the horse won’t eat anymore, day four the well runs dry, day five the light won’t take – reverse creation – Tarr said the book Ohlsdorfer’s daughter receives is the “anti-Bible”

  • The narration summation happens to end day 1, 3, and 5

It is a parable, but the content is very realism focused—much of the running time is tracking Ohlsdorfer and his daughter’s unspoken routine- the harshness of it all. He has one arm that doesn’t work so she helps him get dressed, do chores… we watch them as they both eat a single potato each day

Tarr is a Tarkovsky acolyte in many ways. I see some influence on Robert Eggers here. The Lighthouse (2019) has a similar production design quality to The Turin Horse. Every inch of the location looks curated and chosen—every distressed piece of clothing, the bowl for the potato, the lantern in the cabin- very meticulous.

An immaculate photograph of the daughter in her cloak going out into the menacing storm with the water buckets on day three. Tarr knows what he has here and repeats it on day four.

A long shot of land elevation with a tree in splendid black and white photography that looks like the epic shot in John Ford’s The Grapes of Wrath or The Night of the Hunter

  • The coloring isn’t about contrasting black and white, it is greyscale.
  • 2011 with this, The Tree of Life and Melancholia feels like truly something distinct and special. Two of the three really about the apocalypse—heavy themes, boldly stylistic by three of the best artists of recent cinema

Ends with the two of them sitting across the table from each other in a spectacular last frame

  • A masterpiece-Tarr’s work combines a mixture of masterful camera movements and supreme photography. There’s dogmatic dedication to a specific worldview, theme, and somber tone