This movie is not meant to entertain. Do not go to this movie expecting excitement or adventure for you will find just the opposite. This is a movie of ideas, philosophy, and meditation. The pace is very slow, (too slow I think.) It is likely you will find yourself bored. On my first viewing, I managed to watch 30 minutes. Nevertheless, my mind kept returning to certain scenes and I decided to finish.

The Turin Horse directed by Bela Tarr derives its title from an apocryphal tale concerning Friedrich Nietzsche, whose philosophy is central to the film. In this tale, Nietzsche witnesses the flogging of a horse and tries to save it. Thereupon he collapses.

The film itself follows the existence of an old crippled man and his daughter over the course of several days. You could call it “life” but their days are far too bleak for that word. Never leaving their isolated abode, they rise, get dressed, fetch water, and cook potatoes. Rinse and Repeat. Restricted to the camera’s perspective, you feel as if you have joined this monotonous routine. Often, the camera will linger long after the characters have left the frame, focused on a door or an object. It puts you in the position of the silent observer. When this happens, often at the close of a scene, you withdraw into introspection.

So when you see the old man or the girl sit and stare through the window onto the barren windswept landscape, you can’t help but wonder, “What is going through their mind? What do they see?”

A common feature of metaphysical art is the idea that the world we perceive is not the true world. Or another way of looking at it, the truth is our own perception of the world. But everybody has his or her own view, and thus there is no one truth or correct path, for there are many truths. In addition, our “world” can never fully be shared with another. Though words and art can open a small window into that secret place, the viewer is limited by their own perceptions. What we share can only be mere shadows of what we truly feel.  

Yet, even this seemingly bleak and meaningless existence, is preferable to nothing. You cannot escape the tension and foreboding that lingers in the film. As the days pass, you sense something is coming. The end is nigh. 

The Turin Horse

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