By now, Hungarian director Béla Tarr has staked his claim and defined his territory as one of the last great visionaries of contemporary cinema, an auteur in the ultimate, irreducible sense of the word, and one of the few contemporary directors whose work is so distinctive as to stand in a category of its own. Announced as his final film, The Turin Horse is a none-more-bleak, hauntingly oppressive nightmare, an apocalyptic metaphor of life and death that takes its starting point from a real-life episode: philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche's witnessing of a Turin coachman whipping his tired horse. What follows, though, has nothing whatsoever to do with said episode: over the film's two and a half hours, we accompany the ever-repeating rituals of a coachman and his daughter in a remote rural hut, as outside the world seems to be prey to unspeakable forces that are bringing its end nearer.

     Tarr's methodical, merciless, unyielding structure of lengthy tracking shots, minimal dialogue and obsessively repeating music hinges upon a ritualistic, almost atavistic concept of repetition and recurrence, evoking simultaneously the glory days of silent and early spoken cinema (though Fred Kelemen's luminous black-and-white is closer to the work of later cinematography stylists such as Henri Alekan or William Lubtchansky) and the desperate absurdism of Samuel Beckett's theatre. A gloomy one-way journey into the heart of darkness of mankind, The Turin Horse is not so much a film as a sensory experience - you go in expecting a conventional movie, you come out disturbed, anguished, confronted with your own mortality made physical in ways you are unlikely to have ever felt inside a cinema. Enter at your own risk.

Erika Bók, János Derzsi, Mihály Kormos.
     Director, Béla Tarr; co-director/editor, Ágnes Hranitzky; screenplay, Lászlo Krasznahorkai, mr. Tarr; cinematography, Fred Kelemen (b&w); music, Mihály Vig; designer, Sandór Kallay; costumes, János Breckl; production, TT Filmméhely, MPM Film, Vega Film, Zero Fiction, Werk Werck Works (Hungary/France/Switzerland/Germany/USA, 2010, 147 minutes).
     Screened: Berlin Film Festival 2011, official competition advance press screening, Cinemaxx Potsdamer Platz 9 (Berlin), February 14th 2011. 


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