TIFF 2011: THE TURIN HORSE

The Turin Horse (Béla Tarr, 2011). My kneejerk reaction to Béla Tarr's Berlinale winner The Turin Horse is to recite the childhood jingle, "One potato, two potato, three potato, four." Exacting but exquisite, Tarr's (allegedly) final film depicts the weight of life through the repetition of daily tasks rendered in shades of grey. The Turin Horse contests mythologist Joseph Campbell's assertion that it is through the performance of everyday tasks that one's brilliance shines through. Instead, it poses that the weight of life extinguishes life's light. Though Fred Kelemen's B&W cinematography seems less lustrous than Tarr's last TIFF entry The Man From London--the whites less milky and the blacks less inky--the look of the film remains unquestionably beautiful, if daunting. Tarr's pacing, of course, is an acquired taste, if not an exercise in patience. His is the proverbial "difficult" film.

The Turin Horse
's narrative follows from this introduction: "In Turin on 3rd January, 1889, Friedrich Nietzsche steps out of the doorway of number six, Via Carlo Albert. Not far from him, the driver of a hansom cab is having trouble with a stubborn horse. Despite all his urging, the horse refuses to move, whereupon the driver loses his patience and takes his whip to it. Nietzsche comes up to the throng and puts an end to the brutal scene, throwing his arms around the horse's neck, sobbing. His landlord takes him home, he lies motionless and silent for two days on a divan until he mutters the obligatory last words, and lives for another ten years, silent and demented, cared for by his mother and sisters. We do not know what happened to the horse."

Tarr shows us what happens to the horse. Life happens to the horse.

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