Bored to tears by The Turin Horse

AFF Day 9

I’m going to preface this piece by saying I’ve never seen a film by Béla Tarr, the Hungarian director behind The Turin Horse, an existential movie about the life of a horse who is later whipped in an Italian square, a moment which supposedly sent Friedrich Nietzsche into insanity for ten years prior to his death.

Sounds like a fun night. So I went with my girlfriend to the film’s 9:30pm screening at the Oxford Theatre. For a week of reviewing, I had yet to see a film at the Oxford, perhaps the best theatre I have ever been to.

I love that place. The chairs are super comfortable, it has an amazing ambience, and you can run to get more butter on your popcorn without missing any parts of the film. It’s the best.

But of course, problems can happen at even the best theatres, and as my luck would have it, I can’t watch a film all the way through lately without something fucking up. So after the first four minutes of the film the reel slowed down, the lights came up, and the manager announced they had formatted it incorrectly and would need to fix it for a few minutes. The Empire strikes back.

After they fixed the projector, the film started back up. I kind of wish it had stayed broken though, because The Turin Horse may be one of the most boring films I’ve ever seen. That’s not to say I’m some sort of attention starved film reviewer who needs Michal Bay-like special effects to enjoy my time. But I do enjoy my films to have, you know, a progression. Reading previews of this film, everyone commented on the film’s unique pace. What they really meant was: this film is so slow it will make you take a nap and later you’ll wake up and feel like you have missed nothing.

At the beginning of the film we see a horse walking for what feels like an eternity. Then we watch the horse go into a farmhouse. And then for about an hour we watch the cab driver and his daughter eat boiled potatoes with their bare hands and look out the window. It is excruciating.

The film has only two songs in its soundtrack. The first is a repetitive baroque tune that kind of acts like the symphonic version of “The Song That Never Ends.” The second piece of music is the wind blowing. That’s all you hear. I know Tarr did this on purpose to highlight the characters repetitive existences, but come on. Wind? You have to be kidding me.

So an hour into the film I started hearing some bags jingling and witnessed a few people bee-lining for the exit. The majority of those in attendance stayed, so I thought I would as well.

But then I started thinking: "Why am I watching this film? I hate this movie. Why am I watching two people eat boiled potatoes repeatedly? They should at least put some salt on them. Do they know how devoid of nutrients potatoes are? I’m wasting my time. Oh my god, I’m going to die one day, and I’m wasting my time watching this movie."

And that’s when I got up and left. I’m embarrassed to say it, but I couldn’t sit through the whole film. I’ve only left one movie before in my life, and do you know what that was? It was Johnny Knoxville’s The Ringer, a story about a man who rigs the Special Olympics. I actually stayed longer at The Ringer, but only because it had a story.

I don’t consider people eating starchy vegetables to be much of a story.

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