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69 of 72 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars there is nothing that comes close...
There is no plot outside of the daily grind that a father and daughter go through- attempting to saddle a resistant horse, preparing dinner (boiling spuds) eating dinner (with a touch of salt), listening to the wind, watching the wind and visiting the well. I have always been a fan of Bela Tarr but approached this with trepidation- it seemed almost a parody of his...
Published on 9 Jun 2012 by deejtarr

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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The lengthy opening shot of the shattered horse pulling his owner through a howling path is stunning, as is the score that accom
The Hungarian filmmaker Bela Tarr's last film `The Turin horse' is based on a story of how the German philosopher Freidrich Nietzsche witnessed a cart driver beating a horse, and threw himself in front of the animal to stop the beating. According to legend, this event signaled the onset of a mental breakdown from which Nietzsche never recovered.

Set in the 19th...
Published 21 months ago by dipesh parmar


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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The lengthy opening shot of the shattered horse pulling his owner through a howling path is stunning, as is the score that accom, 3 Mar 2013
This review is from: The Turin Horse [DVD] (DVD)
The Hungarian filmmaker Bela Tarr's last film `The Turin horse' is based on a story of how the German philosopher Freidrich Nietzsche witnessed a cart driver beating a horse, and threw himself in front of the animal to stop the beating. According to legend, this event signaled the onset of a mental breakdown from which Nietzsche never recovered.

Set in the 19th Century, in a remote and unknown place lives a man, his daughter and their horse. The story is based on the last days of the horse, old and weary and physically exhausted as his owner. Theirs is a harsh and unforgiving existence, living on nothing more than water and boiled potatoes, and the occasional glass of plum brandy. The horse refuses to eat or work, which threatens its owner's livelihood.

`The Turin horse' is pared down to the minimum, individual scenes are shot in great length. The rigours of life are shown in all its isolated detail, little happens, little is said, little can be done. Its difficult to look beyond this, which i think is what Tarr was trying to evoke. The trouble is that its an incredibly difficult proposition for anyone to experience it, its not even a depressing film but the lack of anything of interest other than this empty existence and the windswept landscape is hard to sustain. Tarr shows you the arduousness of their life and what such an existence was like, as stirring as this daily routine is it will test your patience. There is only so much poetry that can be drawn from the emptiness and the struggle of survival, perhaps Nietzsche's mental breakdown was no surprise?

What does lift this film is the exquisite black and white photography, the best i've seen since Michael Haneke's `White Ribbon'. The lengthy opening shot of the shattered horse pulling his owner through a howling path is stunning, as is the score that accompanies it. `The Turin horse' will divide many people, and it will most certainly test the patience of the majority, for the few who survive you may be rewarded.
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69 of 72 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars there is nothing that comes close..., 9 Jun 2012
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This review is from: The Turin Horse [DVD] (DVD)
There is no plot outside of the daily grind that a father and daughter go through- attempting to saddle a resistant horse, preparing dinner (boiling spuds) eating dinner (with a touch of salt), listening to the wind, watching the wind and visiting the well. I have always been a fan of Bela Tarr but approached this with trepidation- it seemed almost a parody of his previous work, taking too far the patience of the audience... I could not have been more wrong.

Once again Vig's music is phenomenal- the grinding, aching, maddening repetition of a single motif you could listen to forever- even more grinding and maddening than Valuska or Oreg (from Werkmeister Harmonies). The long shots are still there but now without the giant whales and hospital raids to give them a gripping, visceral force- instead, this is cinema pared right down to the bone. There is only the long shot of the daily task. And still it manages to be utterly mesmerising... Kelemen (the cinematographer) is a large part of this, as is the wind-- but mostly it is the mental directions you get pulled in, the world you are given time to occupy and explore, questions ask and secrets reveal.

It is Tarr's last film- his most experimental, his most bleak... and, I truly believe, one of the greatest films of all time,
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40 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The wind cries..., 25 July 2012
By 
GlynLuke (York UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Turin Horse [DVD] (DVD)
What makes a great film?
The idea occured to me towards the end of this lengthy, apparently final work of Bela Tarr, in the small cinema screen where I saw it on its one meagre day`s release, a dozen or so of us there to watch it weave its rare spell.
Well, is it the overlapping backchat of His Girl Friday; Wayne`s eyes of depthless rage in Red River; the shadowy doorways, delirious camera angles and suggestively empty squares of The Third Man; or perhaps it`s the ecstatic tree fighting and wall climbing in Crouching Tiger...or the deceptively simple fables of Eric Rohmer? Yes! Yes, all that and more. You just need to open yourself to the possibility that there might be some way of filming `life` that you haven`t seen yet - or at least not in such a way before.
This is my first exposure to Bela Tarr. I have been longing to see one of the Hungarian`s films since I heard they existed, especially having lived for two years in Budapest, and therefore interested in anything emanating from that strange and exasperating country. I sat engrossed and riveted, despite a two-and-a-half-hour running time, and its grudgingly unhurried pace. But if you are at all used to `slow` films (but what, after all, is a `slow film`...?) you will no doubt be as spellbound as I was by this stunningly beautiful black-and-white tale, whose impetus comes from a (true) anectote concerning the philosopher Nietzsche, who witnessed a horse being whipped, which appears to have brought on the breakdown that led to the insanity of his final years. After a voice-over telling us of this `backstory` - a voice-over which we hear once or twice again during the course of the film, and whose dramatic sense is the only element of such an innately visual film I would call into question - we see not very much of said horse and a great deal of its owners, a Mosaic man and his gaunt, dutiful daughter - played to perfection by Janos Derzsi and Erika Bok - just about ekeing out a livelihood in the seemingly permanently gale-torn Hungarian plains in the late nineteenth century.
However, the opening tracking shot - at least five minutes long, but totally compelling in its beauty and stark immediacy - shows the long-suffering horse hauling the one cart owned by the couple back to their spacious but sparsely furnished farm. These are some of the most moving images I have seen in any film - and, incidentally, reminded me a little of the wonderful horse sculptures of the American artist Deborah Butterfield.
But this is not in fact a film about horses, but rather concerns the harshness of rural life over a hundred years ago, and its - I was going to say its beauty. But that would be a patronising mistake, for it is the director who is making beauty out of degradation, out of near-squalor, just as Goya did, or Genet, or any number of socially aware artists, and indeed there is something almost Dickensian in the film`s relentless concentration on the lives of the downtrodden, though perhaps without Dickens` redeeming humour. There are flashes of humour here, but they flicker and die with the pair`s unreliable candles.
Watching this leisurely film, many questions came to mind, such as the anomaly concerning aesthetic beauty/artistry and real ugliness/suffering, but surely that is all to the good. To emerge from any film armed with questions can only ever be a boon rather than a burden.
There are many kinds of filmmaking, many types of film. This is one. I was enthralled by The Turin Horse, and hope it will be seen by at least as many as wish to see it.
A rare and humbling masterpiece.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unique, 26 Feb 2013
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This review is from: The Turin Horse [DVD] (DVD)
This is the strangest film I've ever watched. It's in black and white, virtually no speaking (sub-titled). Very atmospheric. It's a long film and the climax is so slow in arriving that it keeps you wondering where it's going for the duration of the film. I must admit I did find it challenging to stick at but I was in the mood to watch it and I had no interruptions. The haunting thoughts it provoked stayed with me for days afterwards. So many unanswered questions. A very powerful film. You'll either love it or hate it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars New to Tarr? Start elsewhere., 12 Jan 2014
By 
Richard "Not here." (London, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Turin Horse [DVD] (DVD)
As a confirmed fan of Bela Tarr I came to this anticipating another example of his soulful, intelligent, aesthetically beautiful cinema. Maybe my expectations were unrealistically high, because I have to admit, I found this to be rather disappointing.

Not that it fails to deliver the aforementioned qualities. Compared to his best work however, this one felt below par to me. It's definitely not the best place to start if you are new to this director's films and in fact many might well put off many exploring his work at all. Personally, I'd place it at the bottom of his list. That said, bear in mind that the list is comprised of masterpieces of the highest order (in my opinion). So my three star rating reflects a disappointment that is strictly relative. This is still a fine film. It's just an awfully hard-going cinematic experience and exceptionally bleak vision of human existence; an exercise in poe-faced existentialism which is so unrelentingly minimalist in style that it veers dangerously close to self-parody.

The director's trademark stylistic characteristics are all in place: the sequence of long slow takes; the fusion of naturalism and carefully choreographed staging to induce a meditative space for the audience to experience a recreation of the world in which apparent verisimilitude is presented with a formal beauty that suggests visual poetry. Top quality cinematic craftsmanship at the service of an unflinchingly tough but soulful look at humanity. A complete disregard for the priorities of commercial entertainment in order give us a memorable experience which is at once visceral and contemplative.

But damn, watching this thing is hard-going. With a minimal cast, single location and repetitive action, repetitive soundtrack (the music is tonally an equivalent to the howling gale pervading the scenario throughout) and minimal dialogue, the narrative is essentially a Beckett-like reductive situation in which characters in extremis gradually (very) are compelled to adjust to declining circumstances until their grim survival boils down to tenacity of spirit in the darkness. It's like a grim, alcoholic, cynical joke about spiritual poverty/cosmic plight. Without a laugh track.

But then again, if you're up for it, sit back, relax, pace yourself and enjoy the grind.

I think basically my gripe is that in this, supposedly Tarr's final film, he's reduced/refined his style to the point where, rather than being a summation, the limitations of his artistic vision are suggested. It seems a pity for him to bow out with what feels like something akin to stylistic formula. I can't believe a man this talented will and sincerely hope he won't because I for one, am always up for another Tarr flick. Even below-par Tarr.

P.S. The Artificial Eye DVD release includes an excellent short documentary by Tarr that looks like it might have been made for Hungarian T.V. This is a really compelling little thing and suggests that a compilation of his documentary work (of which I've seen nothing) would be well worth seeking out --if such a release exists.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An astonishing vision into the heart of the human condition, 13 Aug 2013
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This review is from: The Turin Horse [DVD] (DVD)
Bela Tarr's 2011 uncompromising masterpiece The Turin Horse is a hugely challenging, devastatingly beautiful and highly rewarding meditation on the end of the world. Shot in just 30 astounding takes, the 146 minute film charts the last six days in the lives of a stableman and his daughter in a farmhouse set in the middle of a bleak windswept plain. The film's intellectual backbone is set out at the beginning with the recalling of the story of Friedrich Nietzsche about him witnessing a cab driver cruelly whipping his horse in a Turin street because the animal refuses to move. Deeply shocked, the philosopher rushed to protect the animal only to fall into insanity after his landlord had guided him back to his room. Now, the stableman and his horse in Bela Tarr's film may or may not be the same cab driver and horse. That is irrelevent in a way. What is important is that we need to grasp what the name 'Nietzsche' connotates. He is most famous for proclaiming (in The Gay Science) that 'God is dead' and that Man is therefore free to live his own life. Nietzsche viewed humans as belonging to one of two classes: those of the aristocratic morality who are endowed with qualities of nobility, truth and bravery; and those of the slave (herd) morality whose traits are submissive - humility, sympathy and benevolence. His idea of the perfect Man is a synthesis between these two opposites in the Superman (Ubermensch). Naturally however, of course it is the master morality that dominates Nietzsche's utopian idea of Mankind as they are the most likely to have developed the vital will-to-power. This is where his philosophy becomes elitist. Everywhere in his work he displays scorn towards mediocrity, against the herd morality. Like it or not, it is the herd morality that is by far the most common and that is exactly what confronted Nietzsche that day in the Turin street. His insanity (Tarr and his writer Laszlo Krasznahorkai appear to be saying) was the direct result of being confronted by the absurdity of his Superman ideal and it is the consequence of Nietzsche's thinking on those of the herd morality (the majority of us mere mortals) that is the central subject of Tarr's film. Those few endowed with an active will-to-power may well prosper in a Godless universe, but as the drunk says when he bursts into the farmhouse later in the film, the non-existence of God for the herd also means the non-existence of a sense of good and evil, in essence Man's loss of humanity. Most humans (who possess a weak will-to-power) are unable to make their lives meaningful without the sense of something higher than themselves there as a guide. Life without a 'God' is therefore too horrific to bear for the majority and Nietzsche's only response to this realization is a retreat into insanity - life became simply too heavy for him to take. In interview Tarr has said that in The Turin Horse he wanted to make a film about "[this] heaviness of existence". As we follow the daily grind of the poor lives of the father and daughter (the herd) we realize that there is something wrong with the world, that in a sense it has been destroyed. Tarr also said "the key point is that the humanity, of all of us [sic], are responsible for the destruction of the world. But there is a force above human [sic] at work - the gale blowing throughout the film - that is also destroying the world. So both humanity and higher force [sic] are destroying the world". Bela Tarr's film would therefore appear to be a long desperate howl of despair at the decline of spiritual values and the meaninglessness of life where Mankind repeatedly ignores the existence of God, insists he has the freedom to choose his own life, but (because they are mainly of the herd morality) inevitably fall into the rut of the daily routine of everyday life so clearly shown in the narrative.

To me the very blasphemy of this viewpoint is made clear in the film by it's division into six days which suggests the narrative constitutes Chapter 1 of Genesis no less, but in reverse. In the bible God created the world in six days only to rest on the seventh. In the film God destroys the world in six days mainly because the characters refuse to acknowledge Him. Gradually the Man and the Woman lose their claim to rightful existence. They are already poor at the beginning of the film, the man's right arm is paralysed and he seems to have been reduced from a possibly more prosperous prior life to his current lowlife as a rural cab driver. The next day the horse wont move and at a stroke the pair are denied a livelihood. The horse would appear to take on the same significance as the dead whale in Werckmeister Harmonies (2000) as it silently oversees (causes?) the destruction of the world around him. Then we have a visit from a drunken neighbour who tells them of the destruction taking place in the nearby town (another parallel with Werckmeister Harmonies) and who bemoans the lack of God equalling the lack of a value system. We follow the Woman as she repeatedly gets water from the well. One day she and her father shoo away a group of gypsies who try to drink for themselves. The gypsies claim that water should be for everyone and that denying it amounts to an act of blasphemy. Sure enough the next day the well runs dry. In Genesis God gave water, in the film he takes it away. The Man and Woman's food consists of one potato per meal which now they can no longer even boil. The Man and Woman attempt to leave their now uninhabitable house and (in one astounding take mainly shot through a window) we see them beaten back on the horizon by the elements (by God himself). The next step is that God denies them light and the film finishes with an astonishing sixth day as the Man and Woman sit opposite each other across a table, inert, completely beaten. The Man says "we must eat", but can only manage one little bight of his raw potato. The Woman sits motionless. The gale outside has stopped, it is pitch black, God has ceased to exist and with him Mankind has ceased to exist as well.

Anyone reading this might think the film is pretentious miserabilist reductivism, and it has to be conceded that Bela Tarr has hardly been universally accepted by the film world. Admirers have made comparisons between him and other uncompromising directors such as Robert Bresson, Andrei Tarkovsky and Theo Angelopoulos. While it's true to say that if you know and like these directors then Tarr is probably for you, I don't neccessarily agree that his cinema is like theirs at all. All three of these directors have a strong sense of religious faith burning through their work. With Tarr we have the sense that he has given up on the world, and that he thinks God has given up, too. This puts Tarr into an unique class all of his own. Hence the reluctance of some to accept him I suppose. For me though, I have to say I find his films incredibly rewarding personally. I can't explain why this is, but perhaps Tarkovsky's words from his book, Sculpting in Time apply best here. Tarkovsky always said that his films were so simple that even kids could watch and enjoy and that instead of responding intellectually we should respond emotionally. That really is the key to understanding Tarkovsky's films, and I think it also holds true for Bela Tarr. Watching The Turin Horse we are hypnotised by the mesmerising long takes (like the opening 10 minute blinder of the horse being driven down the road), the astonishing Mihaly Vig minimalist music (more Arvo Part than Philip Glass I'd say) which drills itself into your brain, the incessant howling of the wind as God batters his creations to the very limits, the incredible skill of cinematographer Fred Keleman's b/w compositions, the committed performances (Janos Derzsi as the old man looking every bit like a biblical soothsayer, and Erika Bok as the suffering daughter trudging to the well every day), Mihaly Raday's narration (written by Krasznahorkai) which (along with the music) gives the whole film a sense of ritual, and then of course Bela Tarr's uncompromising direction (Agnes Hranitzky is given a co-director credit along with her usual editing). In the world today perhaps only Michael Haneke and Abbas Kiarostami have the balls to make such a raw uncommercial statement about life, completely bleak, but searingly honest and perceptive of what lies at the heart of the human condition. The film shows the end of the world, but sadly, it also shows the end of Bela Tarr, for he has said this is his last film. This might seem apt when looking at the subject matter, but actually the film was begun in the mid 1980s with a treatment completed in 1990. The film was delayed to make Satantango (1994) and then two more films before being realized. Surely the great man has more films in him. If we really have seen the last of him then it's sad indeed, for there really isn't anyone else quite like him in world cinema today.

This Artificial Eye DVD is top notch, the transfer very fine indeed. I also applaud the inclusion of the short film, Hotel Magnezit which shows Tarr's origins as a documentarist with its story of an old man being evicted from a hostel in which he has established his home. I wish more of Tarr's earlier films could be more widely released as they throw a different light on all his films made post-Damnation (1988). Bela Tarr is an extraordinary director who I'd strongly urge anyone interested in contemporary cinema to try. Not everyone will buy into his cosmic bleakness, but for those strong enough, his films are essential viewing.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beckettian Masterpeice, 17 Mar 2013
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The ponderous pace, a world that is real and yet somehow not, the grinding monotony, the sense of things slowly winding down, human endurance, all tropes that remind me of Beckett.

This movie will divide viewers, but its artistic vision and its stunning photography worked perfectly for me. Beckett made no concession to his audience, nor does this movie. But it will burn itself into your conscience long after you have seen it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding film, an artistic beauty., 2 July 2013
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This review is from: The Turin Horse [DVD] (DVD)
The Turin Horse is a very special sort of film; it requires much concentration and to be watched in a silent room either by oneself or with a partner. This film is very, very slow and heavy viewing for film watchers who are not used to this type of artful, contemplative film. The imagery found here is breath taking; beautifully bleak is a term I like to use, for the likes of also the The Road and No Country for Old Men. Here though, the film is more or less set at one location; an old house in the countryside owned by an Old man and his daughter, who's lives are the same each day, morning and night they maintain the house, the turin horse, meals and bedding. The daughter in particular has a rough life, having to look after her father and work long hours.

The weather is relentless; an eternal storm blasts across the desolate landscape like an apocalyptic event; very little other characters are seen beyond the pair and the said turin horse, who has it's own part to pay in this nightmarish tale. The pair don't say very much, but what they do and the little they so say speaks volumes of their situation and mindset. You really get the feeling this pair or really struggling in life and want to know what it all means and what it is all about.

As well as that, the haunting score that plays throughout the movie repeatedly, almost maddeningly, creates a sombre and almost horror like atmosphere. After watching this film it really makes you think about life, death and all the bits in between; what it means to be alive and how we deal with what we've been dealt with in life. What awaits us after death? What will the world look like when we witness our own reckoning?

I would also highly recommend that you don't watch this film if you are slightly sleepy and late at night; it is hard going at times but the pay off is worth it - quite the film watching experience!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not Sure You Can 'Love It' But It's Still Masterful, 23 April 2013
This review is from: The Turin Horse [DVD] (DVD)
You would think that a film with about ten scenes where the main characters exchange about 20 words over 140 minutes would be slow, and you wouldn't be wrong. However, it packs such a mesmeric, well, 'punch' (but that's hardly the right word) that somehow the time goes quickly if you commit to it. The details become like standing in front of a great painting: you take in all those details so as you don't really experience boredom but fascination. You are watching much of what goes on in real time, and that is so unusual that a spell is cast and the 'suspension' of time is the feeling that it creates along with the similarly hypnotic music with its sad, lyrical sense of 'endurance'. Clearly a master-work and clearly a minority sport. The echoes of Bresson's 'Au Hasard Balthasar' are unmissable if you've seen it and also Antonioni's camera at the end of 'The Passenger' as the girl gazes from the window towards the end and we see her from the exterior perspective for the first time. Two surprising interventions offer dramatic respite, however 'pointless' for the protagonists. And as it gets dark towards the end and the last potato is barely eaten, you are left, not shattered, but sobered, and remembering desperately the tiny, virtually eradicated moments where human warmth is shown - the apparent incidentals of the girl's caring for the horse, the ambiguous stares of the father at his daughter. Are they remembering 'love' once expressed which now because of the conditions of existence, are inexpressible?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Turin Horse, 20 Mar 2013
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This review is from: The Turin Horse [DVD] (DVD)
Bela Tarr can't go wrong. An extraordinary film, remarkable imagery and profound though I could not see how Nietzche fitted in. I think the book of Job Ch. 27 fits perfectly. A particularly fine performance by Erika Bok. I have watched Turin Horse about four times now and will continue at intervals. Though this is as an excellent film, I think Werkmeister harmonies is better.
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The Turin Horse [DVD]
The Turin Horse [DVD] by Bela Tarr (DVD - 2012)
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