I recently posted a note about the Béla Tarr retrospective that the Lincoln Center organized in New York. This occasion gave me the opportunity to add to Damnation and the Harmonies Werckmeister, a third movie from him that fascinated me both for its content and its technicality: The Turin Horse.
The Turin Horse refers to the horse that Nietzsche one day saw being beaten to death by its master and that he hugged before sinking in prostration for few days. This event is said to have been the trigger to Nietzsche’s madness from which he will never recover. This film is suggesting the life of this horse ‘s life as well as his master and his master’s daughter’s life before this event. The setting never changes: a small stone house in the middle of a Beckettian landscape in which the father and the daughter repeat the same routine every day that Béla Tarr shows in his beautiful long sequence shots that has been creating his style since Damnation.
The films starts with the beginning of a storm that will never stops to increase. Leaves, trees, clothes, fabrics are all subject to this heavy wind; even the light itself changes drastically from quasi-monochromatic whites to the darkness of the end of the movie. Everything seems submitted to a sort of entropy in which all means of subsistence got affected. The Horse refuses to move, then to eat and drink, the water of the well disappear, the words of the book the daughter reads resounds as pure meaningless sound and eventually the light itself dies. Nietzsche is never evoked (although the prophet who visits them at some point does recall Zarathustra to some extent), but one might want to see this entropy of matter as a parallel of the entropy of the mind he experiences. I would even be keen to propose an interpretation in which this whole film consists in the vision that Nietzsche had when he saw this horse being beaten to death. The long sequences of Béla Tarr would therefore contrast with the sudden and punctual event Nietzsche experiences in a paradoxical parallelism of time scale that I remain fascinating by. (see my similar interpretations of The Trial and Enter the Void)