Tarr to a tee, you might say. Not everyone, even among the few who saw “The Turin Horse” in the cinema, will like or admire it either; as if to fulfill some universally agreed pastiche of art-house style, it runs for two and a half hours, in black and white, in Hungarian. When I caught it, there were eight of us in the audience at the start and five of us remaining at the end. Even if its total fanbase was no larger than you would expect for a serious novel, (and therefore many times what most poets command these days), why should that not suffice? There is something heroic in a movie director who grasps his vision of the world and takes it, scorning compromise, to its irrevocable limit—ad infinitum, you might say, or, if you have other ideas, ad absurdum. In Tarr’s case, he drags it even beyond van Gogh; after all, there is no mistaking the political charge in the painter’s description of his peasants, supping on what they have striven for; and the dignity of custom is there on the canvas, too, in the starched white headgear of the women, and the forks with which their bony, angular hands reach out to spear the food. No such ceremony for Tarr’s pair: they break the tubers with bare fists, claw them apart, and mash the mealy insides into their mouths. Beside this brute behavior, van Gogh’s potato-eaters can, after all, be classed as civilized, although such is Tarr’s tranquil mastery that our sympathies, at the dying of the light, are never entirely snuffed out. If “The Turin Horse” is indeed an accurate trailer for earth’s demise, one shudders to imagine the main event. Even I, for once, can wait for its release.
Anthony Lane picks his notable films of the year, including Béla Tarr’s The Turin Horse. [via The New Yorker]