MIFF 2011 Film Review: THE TURIN HORSE

6 Aug


The Turin Horse is a precise execution of modernist nihilism, drawing the last slither of slow-cinema grey-lead down to the bottom point of art cinema, forcing it until it snaps. This may or may not be Bela Tarr’s final film, but it certainly demonstrates he has given up on cinema.

Opening with an ominous narrator (most films would be accused of adding this after the fact to add focus/meaning/anything) who describes the famous incident of Nietszche violently embracing a whipped horse and shouting “Ich bin dumm/I am stupid”. Cue horse, old crippled man, his daughter; stark black and white, doom laden music, and the empty repetition of their desolate lives. Any beauty which can be found in the images is simply a side effect of the rigorous detail of black and white cinematography. Otherwise, there is nothingness in abundance: shots held on a wall, then minutes later someone stumbles in to barely perform a menial task. Add an unsubtle storm. Repeat. Cinema as dead weight. The film is a stoned asthmatic slowly wheezing and mumbling: “How can we become ubermensch when we cannot even be mensch. We are trapped at the level of beasts.” I just saved you 146 minutes.

This festival has seen the berating of Jan Svankmajer for being past it and failing to make a film which engages its audience. Clearly he should have taken notes from Tarr and put less into his film, Surviving Life, than there already was. The Turin Horse dives into profundity in absence. Its either/or take on the destructive effects of modernity, plunging the world into a nothingness which is stylistically embraced, allows for considerable debate as to what it means. It isn’t worth it; any debate would be a waste of breath that could be put to a million acts or thoughts of anti-nihilism. Tarr’s Werckmeister Harmonies carefully demonstrated an enigmatic and complicated approach to slow cinema and the difficulties of modernity. Now, Tarr has devoured minimalism to cover his lack of anything to say. It is back pedalling into a form of cinema which has been a clichéd joke for decades. It is lack of imagination or care. The Turin Horse is nihilisism, and a truly successful demonstration of why nihilism is useless bullshit. It is the ossified corpse of cinema, absent of everything but physical presence, deified in its solemnity. Go find Pedro Costa’s Colossal Youth instead, a film which deals with identical issues of modernity, poverty and the loss of the past and place. Its longer and just as slow, but it finds meaning and purpose in the emptiness, refusing to slip into a cinematic dead end.


3 Responses to “MIFF 2011 Film Review: THE TURIN HORSE”

  1. A Potpourri of Vestiges July 10, 2012 at 4:07 am #

    Great analysis… You are right in calling The Turin Horse an execution of modernist nihilism in cinema. For me, Tarr is the epitome of auteristic mastery in the world of cinema. The Turin Horse cannot be deemed an artistic failure. On the contrary, I look up to the movie as Tarr’s greatest lagniappe to the world of cinema!!! 🙂

    Btw, I had recently written a review of The Turin Horse for my movie blog which can be read at:


  2. 100% nigga August 15, 2013 at 1:46 am #

    you know what? fuck you. you probably like transformers or some bullshit michael bay film


  1. We have Beards so we know Movies: A Torinói ló aka The Turin Horse (2011) « Lunki and Sika – Movie, TV, Celebrity and Entertainment News. And Other Silliness. - December 20, 2011

    […] MIFF 2011 Film Review: THE TURIN HORSE (australianfilmreview.wordpress.com) […]

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