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FNE at Berlinale 2011: Competition The Turin Horse

2011-02-16

BERLIN: Billed as Bela Tarr's last bow The Turin Horse seems to be a throwback to his eight hour epic Satantango in terms of pace and monotony. Though a mere two hours and twenty minutes-almost a short film by Tarr standards- the film will be an endurance test for audiences as they struggle to decipher the Hungarian master's meaning and unravel this apocalyptic allegory.

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The film is based according to Tarr on a story in which Nietzsche sees a cab driver beating his horse. Nietzsche is so moved he throws his around the horse's neck in sympathy. As Tarr tells us we know the fate of Nietzsche but what happened to the horse??

What follows is six days in the life of the horse cart driver Ohlsdorfer played by Janos Derzsi and his granddaughter played by Erika Bok who shares his hut with him. The cart driver has one bad arm and so his granddaughter needs to help him to accomplish the simple tasks of daily life.

Tarr's films are made of long shots where he follows the action of his protagonists with a Steadicam and one shot can go on for ten or 15 minutes. The slowness and repetitiveness of 19th century peasant life is given full value and we watch as the cart driver and his daughter dress, undress, fetch water, harness and unharness the horse and prepare their meal of potatoes and eat it. As usual in Tarr's films there is almost no dialogue and it is shot in black and white. The days are dark and bleak and each action and detail is a carefully constructed part of Tarr's tale. We are left with the feeling that is all means something although what that might be remains a mystery.

Despite the fact that Nietzsche does not appear during the film's six days Tarr said that Nietzsche is as much a part of the film as the horse is and that Nietzsche had greatly influenced the whole of his work.

The Turin Horse despite its obscurity is the work of a master director. Tarr never leaves anything to chance. Every detail contributes to the work of art as a whole. The film is relentless and uncompromising. "We do not want to show any solutions. The cart driver depends on the horse for his livelihood. The end of the horse is the end of the world. The film is about transience. We all pass away and perhaps the world passes away too. That is why we are not entirely happy. We have to ponder the question of what we are doing each day and is it really worthy of us."

As to whether this will be his last form or not speaking at the press conference Tarr said: "With this film we have reached a certain point, we have come full circle, and after this we'd be repeating ourselves if we continued. But maybe repeating ourselves would not be a bad thing."

Agnes Hranitzky the film's co-director added" "With this film we have abolished film."

Director: Bela Tarr

Script: Bela Tarr and Laszlo Krasznahorkair

Cast: János Derzsi, Erika Bók, Mihály Kormos

Production: (Hungary) T. T. Filmmuhely, (France) MPM Film, (Germany) Zero Fiction Film, (Switzerland) Vega Film, (USA) Werk Werk Works

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