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The unbearable heaviness of being,
This review is from: The Turin Horse [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
"Do you remember, Milan Kundera wrote this book about the lightness of the being? We just wanted to show you the heaviness of the being," this is what Bella Tarr said in an interview with the New York Times referring to his masterpiece The Turin Horse.
That comment by the extraordinary Hungarian filmmaker neatly sums up this magnificent, if challenging, film. As with all filmmakers of Mr. Tarr's caliber, the film works in many different levels and has many different layers of meaning.
However, and taking Mr. Tarr's comments as an illuminating starting point, rarely, maybe never before, has the cinema focused so intensely on the harrowing, soul crushing, involuntarily heroic aspects of physical work, and in this case, physical work connected to actual survival.
In an isolated farm, an old man, his daughter and a horse face the elements, starvation, and what for viewers would definitely be a soul crushing routine. And yet in facing this apparently dreary existence Tarr's character achieve a sense of grace, including the aforementioned horse, who simply can not move anymore; they are not heroic, we don't know if they are spiritual, we just know that for them life has always been this way and will continue to be this way, if they make it to the next day.
In this sense, this film has a touch of the eternal in it, and while watching it is impossible not to think of the hundreds of millions of lives which have been lived like this throughout history in all the world, and some which continue to be lived this way. It is striking that the lives of the father and the daughter are in some ways identical in their barreness to that of the horse, with the primary goal being survival.
That is why the film has the power and force of revelation, and why, after wathcing it, you feel you have seen one of the greatest movies ever made.
In a year in which "The Artist" was hailed as a hommage to silent cinema, it is Tarr's film which really has all the artfulness and brilliance of the greatest silent filmmakers. And it is also true that this will make the film forbidding for many, along with its more than 3 hours running time, almost any lack of dialogue, and the endless repetition of the daily routines of father and daughter.
In this sense, the film is a monumental achievement, akin to a ritual or sacred experience, and it deserves to be seen in as biggest a screen as possible.
"You are doing always the same thing every day, but every day is a little bit different, and the life is just getting weaker and weaker, and, by the end, disappears" Mr. Tarr said in the aforementioned Times interview, and then went on to emphasize the dignity in the face of adversity of the father and daughter in the film. And this struggle, in Mr. Tarr's hands, has produced a thunderous masterpiece.