Directed by Bela Tarr and released on television in its home country of Hungary in 1982.
An early effort from Bela Tarr in which he gives us his rendition of one of William Shakespeare’s most well known pieces, Macbeth. As to be expected from the genius that is Bela Tarr, we are given two shots. That’s it. For the entire film. The first of which lasts around five minutes, and the second wobs, weaves and lingers for an incredible sixty or so minutes. Of course this technical aspect was to become a staple of Tarr’s work to come (for an example see… well, any of his films post-Damnation).
Beyond the sheer brilliance of the technical side of this piece, we have an absolutely fantastic performance from György Cserhalmi as the titular Macbeth. I might usually complain about the theatricalness of a film like this, but considering the fact that the way in which it is presented is more akin to the stage play where the source material for this was designed for and perfected to, I can do nothing more than marvel at it.
All in all, beyond the technical aspects which Tarr has since come to be known for, we have a master class in how to adapt a play for a film. Another beautiful aspect of most of Tarr’s work is that it feels like it could well have been filmed in the seventeenth century and the fact that this is one of his few pieces which isn’t in black and white gives Tarr fans all the more reason to seek it out.
Directed by Béla Tarr & Agnes Hrantizky and released in it’s home country of Hungary in 2011.
The Turin Horse is a film that works off the story of one of Nietzche’s final encounters where he supposedly wrapped his arms around a horse crying. Of the story, Tarr asks “What happened to the horse?” – and thus The Turin Horse was born.
The film takes place at the turn-of-the-century and recreating that kind of atmosphere is hard but Tarr manages to do it magnificently, creating sets and buildings out of stone and wood especially for the film.
Originally devised in the late 80s and postponed and delayed by various people for various reasons, it stands out on it’s own from any of Tarr’s previous works for two reasons. The first is that it’s Tarr’s last and for most that will be a sign of defeat for cinema – I feel the same way – but for some it will pass them by without even noticing. The second is the visceral performances from the two central characters. Father and daughter. An hour into the film they are met by a visitor spouting Nietzche-like philosophies but is cast out by the father calling it horse manure. The only other appearances come from a group of gypsies and the narration by Tarr himself.
The film follows the daily life of the father and daughter as they sleep, eat, dress and look after their ailing horse who’s health slowly deteriorates as the film progresses. Tarr’s trademark, uncomprimising 10-15 minute single shots, either entice the viewer or make them incredibly uncomfortable and it’s no different here than in Satan’s Tango or Damnation. The cinematography is always the utmost magnificent thing about any of his films and it is absolutely splendid here – bear in mind the film contains a minimal 30 takes. It remains among the best of any Tarr film even managing to overcome the odds set by the beautiful Werckmeister Harmonies. Not to mention the incredible score which is laden throughout the entire piece – the main motif is haunting and will undoubtedly be stuck in my mind for days. Where the score isn’t the harsh sound of gale force winds fly through the frame. The wind sets the perfect tone for the center of the movie where we come to terms with the similarity of this families’ day to day lives.
As the film comes to a close the routines work their way back into the film and you’re left wondering how anyone can even stomach it any longer. The characters are heavily undeveloped but the way their routine and daily life is presented one can only express sympathy for their plight and watch as their story unfolds either to their benefit or to their dismay. Tarr has obviously done this on purpose – leaving the human aspect of this film to the very end and sacrificing it for the feelings of the titular animal which serves as the center of this, Béla Tarr’s last masterpiece.
While the opening 20 minutes contain no dialogue bar the opening naration, the ending is an incredible parallel as the final 15 minutes are played out in complete darkness, ending with Tarr’s narration – followed by an ending to be remembered for a long long time to come.
Films like this remind you how powerful cinema really can be.
A premature death for cinema.
Or is it? Only time will tell.