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Good Film, but Sometimes Tedious
on October 3, 2013
I just finished watching this for the second time. The first time I basically threw myself into it, suspended disbelief, tried to get into its flow and pace, and didn't analyze it too much. One of my favorite directors is Tarkovsky and I'm not at all averse to slowly-unfolding, almost static films; so the slow pace of The Turin Horse didn't bother me. I found the cinematography to be excellent and there were some moving poetical moments; but the emphasis on repetitive daily life routines got to be pretty tiresome, which was aggravated by the ever-present minimalist musical score, a single 16-bar theme that was repeated over and over.
The second time I watched the film I paid closer attention to the diatribe of the neighbor who comes over to borrow some brandy. He speaks from a somewhat Nietzschean viewpoint, except that according to him God plays a role in things. He seems to be saying that the Nietzschean noble natures, those persons "beyond good and evil", basically capitulated and handed the world over to the corrupt and debased. So we're left with a disintegrating world which is the result of ignoble human nature, pushed along by a God that may be vengeful or may be equally ignoble and corrupt, it's a bit hard to tell.
I found that this pardoxical message added quite a bit to my appreciation of the film. I was even able to find some value in the portrayal of the dull routines of the characters inasmuch as I saw them contrasted against the almost cosmic drama which was being played out behind them in the background. While the world is falling apart, the characters are oblivious to it, focused instead on their repetitive, almost bestially numb, routines. Oddly enough, the beasts (the horse, even the woodworms in the house) have more of a sense of this crisis than the humans do.
However, while I can better appreciate the role played by daily routine, I found I just didn't have enough patience to watch the characters go through all that again: getting the horse out, putting the horse away, getting dressed, getting undressed, cooking potatoes, eating potatoes, getting water from the well, throwing away the wastewater--I feel like I "got" the idea the first time I watched the film and didn't want to re-experience the tiresomeness of it all. So, I'm afraid, I fast-forwarded through a lot of the film the second time. I may watch particular scenes of it again in the future because I think there are some fine artistic moments in them, but I don't think I need to relive the tedium of much of what's portrayed here. I understand that this tedium may have been part of the director's intention, but I don't see the value in returning to it repeatedly.