Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. Hungary/France/Germany/Switzerland/USA, 2011. TT Filmmûhely, MPM Film, Vega Film, Zero Fiction Film, Werc Werk Works, Motion Picture Public Foundation of Hungary, Ministry of Education and Culture, National Cultural Fund, Hungarian Historic Motion Picture Foundation, Duna Televízió, Erste Bank, RSI-Radiotelevisione Svizzera, SRG – SSR, CNC, Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, Eurimages. Screenplay by Laszlo Krasznahorkai, Bela Tarr. Cinematography by Fred Kelemen. Produced by Martin Hagemann, Juliette Lepoutre, Marie-Pierre Macia, Gabor Teni,Ruth Waldburger. Music by Mihaly Vig. Production Design by Laszlo Rajk. Film Editing by Agnes Hranitzky. Toronto International Film Festival 2011.
A film of dreamlike quality, rich with wondrous images that resonate long after its conclusion. The known anecdote with which it begins is that of Nietzsche embracing a horse he sees being beaten on the street, which we learn was followed by the great thinker going home and succumbing to his final illness. What of the horse, we are asked, and what world did he come from. That animal is owned by a dour, spiritless master who resides in a farmhouse with his dutiful daughter, the two of them going through daily routines without inspiration and constantly at the mercy of the weather. Long sequences, many of them in single takes, of repeated rituals such as cleaning and eating look stunning in the monochrome cinematography and are accompanied by the haunting musical score, their lives punctuated by a visit from a neighbor spouting existentially critical matters of the point of existence. That visit also provides the film’s highest concentration of dialogue, since it is mostly a series of wordless images that evoke the sense of mortality that is weighing on the lead characters’ mind as he watches his animal sink into aging. It is reportedly Bela Tarr’s last feature, and it is the work of an accomplished master.