Friday, August 17, 2012

"The Turin Horse": Nietzsche, and then the end of the world

I missed “The Turin Horse”, (“A Torinoi Io”) when it showed recently at the West End in Washington and was able to get if off short wait at Netflix (from another city).  The film, directed by Bela Tarr and now Agnes Hranitzky,  is said to be Tarr’s last.  And it follows his practice of black and white, long takes, a slow pace, and a desolate environment.

The film really has two aspects.  For me, the most obvious was that this is another presentation about “the end of the world”.  Around 1889, a farmer (and his grown daughter) in rural Hungary (it doesn’t look like Italy), tend to their dying horse, and realize that the world around them is failing.  Near the end, in fact, even oil lamps at night don’t work.  This is a world without residential electricity so an electromagnetic pulse attack idea isn’t possible, but it seems that their world is getting blown away from them in an endless windstorm.  The mayhem is hard to see.  Perhaps existence itself, or the laws of physics, are failing.  The final scene, with where the 50-something farmer (Janos Derzsi) sits with his daughter (Erika Bok) in a dark room and he tries to eat a bite of potato, is as conclusive as the end of “Melancholia”.  It is the end of the world, which didn’t happen.

The film is slow and intimate.  In one early scene, the farmer peels a potato with his fingernails.  Later, we see the daughter helping him with his longjohns.  Not only is the horse decaying, but so is he. 
In the middle of the film, just before the gypsies appear, there is an existential conversation with a townsperson about moral decay and how humans don’t deserve a good fate.

There is a brooding cello music score by Mihaly Vig, wich features a permanent ground bass in 6/8 time.
The other aspect of the film is its motivation.  In 1889, German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche intervened when, while in Turin, he witnessed a farmer starting to whip an old horse.  (This introduction is not shown.)  Shortly thereafter, Nietzsche became disabled and spent the last ten years of his life under the care of his mother and sister (he was only 45 at the breakdown).

Reagarding Nietzsche, the psychiatrists at NIH wrote this about me when I was am “inpatient” in 1962: “He avoided all heterosexual contacts and his relationships with girls was of the most casual sort. He was goven to philosophical ruminations and following the age of 16, obsessive thinking about the Nietzechean supermen whome he both idolized and hated… He questions and wonders and he puts under constant scrutiny these contemporaries to see if they come up to his standards for an ideal man.”

The official site (from Cinema Guild) is here

The DVD includes a crude short film “Hotel Magnezit”, made by Tarr in 1978.  The short depicts a man fighting eviction from a group apartment.

The DVD has a 46-miinute press conference at the Berlin Film Festival.

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