I rarely watch films, which is shameful really. Partly it’s because no-one else shares my taste – except for Fantastic Mr Fox by Wes Anderson which we all agree is everything a film should be. I have a penchant for French films, not to be pretentious, but because they are pretty slow and have subtitles which means I can follow and hear what’s being said (by reading). Major motion pictures just have too much going on for me. The last one I went to see in an actual cinema was Spielberg’s Lincoln, which I really enjoyed. Perhaps a little too much as the friend I was with had to nudge me sharply when the scene involved the Congressional vote on the Thirteenth Amendment to remind me I was not actually in the House of Congress in January 1865. Lincoln was slow and and revolved around one central issue. Slow is good.
I took this to a whole new level recently by watching The Turin Horse. It’s the last film by Béla Tarr, a Hungarian director. He says it’s the last, not me. Anyway, having watched the last film I can see why he might say that – it may be because there’s nothing left to say. I don’t know much at all about film-making but even I can tell when there’s hardly any dialogue (thankfully subtitled) and the takes linger on and on and on. This is a marvellous and good thing as far as I am concerned. When the shot is long, I get time to think. Think about the film, what it all means. See the different textures and expressions and wonder what it all means a bit more. And I get to feel the film in real time. Not in the buzz of a Hollywood-ending glow, but moment by moment as the art of cinema is pared back to it’s very bones.
I loved The Turin Horse. I loved the opening premise – that when the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche suffered his catastrophic mental breakdown it was provoked after throwing his arms around a horse that was being whipped in Turin. This leads the film’s narrator to point out at the beginning that, ‘no-one knows what happened to the horse…’ As the ‘action’ unfolds over six days I loved the repetition, the long camera and the different angles on the same thing, watching them eat their single boiled potato every day; I even loved the music which is essentially six notes in three bars of three. The story is not uplifting certainly, but the experience, curiously, is. I don’t understand how exactly, but that’s part of the magnetism. Here’s the trailer. If you can’t cope with that, then the full version is probably not for you.
As for the second film, I’ll fill you in on that next.