Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Absolute Cinema - The Turin Horse

Absolute Cinema is a continuing series of moments that I illustrate a moment of cinematic transcendence. These can be a single element or a variety of cinematic techniques that come together in such a way that elevates cinema. It might be an entire sequence or just a particular shot, edit, score it doesn't even have to be on purpose. It is a moment exclusive to cinema as an art form.

[Entry 3] Absolute Cinema: The Turin Horse

The Human Apocalypse

Bela Tarr's final film is a 165 minute apocalyptic epic around the mundanity and exhausted suffering of existence is the only film that I have seen from the Hungarian auteur, but that didn't stop it from becoming one of my favourite films in the last decade without a doubt. Whilst one could easily dismiss it as not for everyone (a true but shallow claim that I've come across in a number of reviews) there is certainly something for everyone here. After all who hasn't [at one point] thrown their hands up and proclaimed 'What's the point?!' at least once? 

For Tarr the film is the last step in his career and something of a realization; change isn't coming, the end is. This is expressed so clearly in the film's monumental centerpiece - a 5 minute long monologue on the state of humanity and the world's ruin that surely ranks up as one of the greatest in recent times. Here's the clip below:

For a film light on much dialogue at all, let alone any of much significance, this sequence briefly opens up Tarr's world to the viewer before shutting it down again (an ironic response from the man with 'Come off it! It's Rubbish.) The end is nigh - not through God, although he may have had a hand in it and not through a man made disaster. Instead it is through the slow erosion of humanity by all those centuries of our own nature that has led to this slow, whimpering holocaust. 

But it is the moment after that this becomes transcendent. As Bernhard leaves, the camera tracks behind the daughter as she watches him through the window (the film boasts only around 30 shots in total.) He stops, and drinks the palinka which he had traveled for, after all what has he to save it for? The oppressive and repetitive score is matched only by the howling wind. The image is split in two by the window pain, the two environments look virtually identical - one empty, one with Bernhard. Two worlds. One without humanity, one inhabited, but only just.  The time for prophets is over, that we are assured of, but is Bernhard a figure of something else? Is he the only figure of self awareness left in this formless world? Or is he just a representation of of Tarr himself, a premonition of a world with and without him?

Without a doubt there are more questions than answers in to be found in The Turin Horse, which some could easily find frustrating but even they can't deny how endlessly fascinating it all is. I don't know if I quite see the world as bleakly as Tarr, but if the end is coming I'd imagine that wont matter. After all, what are we but a light fading slowly out of existence into the overcoming darkness? 

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