There are certain directors you should avoid on a sunny Friday morn. Gaspar Noe would be one. Bela Tarr would be another. The Hungarian director has made a seven-hour film and although there have been longer films and his latest is only the two-and-a-half, The Turin Horse does drag. And how.
n 1899 Frederick Nietzsche witnessed the flogging of a horse and was so moved he threw his arms around the its neck to protect it a little later Nietzsche is diagnosed with a mental illness. But what of the horse? In his final film, Bela Tarr presents us with a fictionalised account of its story: belonging to an elderly destitute farmer (Derzsi) and his daughter (Bok), both have to accept the fact that the horse is dying and unable to sustain their livelihood.


here are about thirty shots in the running time and just to put that into context Michael Bay would have thirty shots in a minute. Not that I wanted to be watching Bay movies every week but I don't want to be watching Tarr on a regular basis either. What we have are a series five-minute tracking shots where nothing happens. Not an iota. Okay, so potatoes are cooked and eaten, water is fetched from the well and clothes are put on and taken off, but that's not 'something'. One fifteen minute sequence sees the characters pack everything up, ready the horse and cart and make their way up the hill and out of sight. A minute later, they reappear, move back to the house, unpack everything, return the horse and cart to the stable and go back inside. There is an explosion of excitement when a neighbour (Kormo, the Pozzo to father and daughter's Vladimir and Estragon) and rather heavy-handedly informs us that the world is in a terrible state of chassis. That goes on forever too but at least somebody is saying something. At one point, I dropped my pen in the darkness and there was a relief that a few moments could be eaten up groping around but I found it almost immediately.
ut it's all metaphorical and whatnot, say those whom The Turin Horse is pitched at: people who have a penchant for going sockless and wearing scarves indoors - the kind who ask you where did you school and hail tedious films like this genius before they've seen them. It's steeped in realism, they argue: it would take that long to cook and eat a potato. Sure, but, as William Goldman said, if film was about that much realism every film would be about characters driving around and around looking for a place to park. Some realism goes a long way but in Tarr's book a lot of realism goes even longer.
ut vitriol aside for a moment. With the gloomy black & white photography, The Turin Horse is beautiful to look at. Bela Tarr and his co-direct Agnes Hraniztky, find a landscape that would inspire Beckett to write even less, a real barren setting with one leafless tree in the distance. Janos Derzsi doesn't have a lot to do but stomp about the place, gaze out windows and stare at uncooked potatoes but it's a real lived-in performance. His haggard, weatherworn face, scraggly white beard and mad Rasputin eyes are interesting in that they have a story to tell - like what happened his wife.
ut there's no time for interesting stuff when there's an old tree to be stared at.