Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Sight & Sound Challenge: The Turin Horse (2011)

Film: The Turin Horse (224/250) 
First Time/Rewatch: First Time

"In Turin on 3rd January, 1889, Friedrich Nietzsche steps out of the doorway of number six, Via Carlo Alberto. Not far from him, the driver of a hansom cab is having trouble with a stubborn horse. Despite all his urging, the horse refuses to move, whereupon the driver loses his patience and takes his whip to it. Nietzsche comes up to the throng and puts an end to the brutal scene, throwing his arms around the horse’s neck, sobbing. His landlord takes him home, he lies motionless and silent for two days on a divan until he mutters the obligatory last words, 'Mutter, ich bin dumm!' and lives for another ten years, silent and demented, cared for by his mother and sisters. We do not know what happened to the horse."

I felt compelled to include the opening narration to set the stage for this film. But it's not about Nietzsche, or the horse. Not really. In fact, by the end of the film, I was convinced that these characters were all dead. The film follows the owners of the horse, a man and his daughter, as they go about their monotonous daily routines. They dress, they tend to the horse, they eat, they go to the well, they try to leave, and then...don't. I'm always intrigued by filmmakers who try to capture something magical in monotony. This film pushes it to the limit. Very long shots, very little dialogue. The added narration made me feel like I was reading about them in a book, almost more action in the added words than in anything I saw onscreen. Their world looks dark and cold, and it feels like it was made very long ago. Like these weren't actors, that I was watching these poor people carry on doing things they've been doing forever and will continue doing forever. Even as I feel I'm there watching them, they look completely alone in the world, hauntingly so. The wind howls, they are stuck in their home, and it feels like there are no other people on the planet. The music was agonizingly repetitive, and conversations went in circles. I truly believed I was watching two souls trapped in some kind of limbo or purgatory. Sisyphus pushing that rock up the hill. It is stark and slow and unnerving, and ultimately unforgettable. 

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