The Turin Horse
Directed by Béla Tarr
Cornerhouse, 10 June 2012
The story of Nietzsche embracing a horse that had been whipped, all the while weeping copious tears, can be found in many places, notably in Milan Kundera’s great novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being.
She wasn’t actually the cause of Nietzsche’s insanity – the poor guy had syphilis and was steadily going downhill – but maybe the mare was some kind of catalyst.
This long, black-and-white film is about the horse; it’s an imagining of her life, her owners and her (or their) world. A better title might have been Ecce Equus, since the untimely beast is a sort of prophet, a harbinger of dessication and desolation. As with many Herzog films, there’s here as well an equivalence or parity of empathy when it comes to the animal and the human; neither has priority.
It’s a demanding film, though with many moments of beauty as a reward if you remain attentive. The dissonant music is ominous and wonderful. One must be susceptible to the film’s slow rhythm, however, that’s the only approach to adopt if you’re to reach it. Else it will remain a nascent, bud-like thing, its beauty stillborn. And on another day when you see it, it might well bore you silly.