Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video that explores Béla Tarr’s The Turin Horse.
Béla Tarr‘s The Turin Horse is built around a legendary act of cruelty. The tale is apocryphal, likely hovering more in the realm of fiction than of fact. But it goes something like this: one day the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche witnessed the abuse of a stubborn horse in the streets of Turin. Frustrated by the animal’s lack of compliance, the owner whipped the horse again and again until Nietzsche intervened. Supposedly, this is the experience that catalyzed the eleven years of madness that left the philosopher bedridden until his death.
Tarr’s film is concerned with the other side of the story. Namely: what happened to the horse?
The film follows a week in the life of a poor farmer and his daughter who live in a shack on the outskirts of Turin. But they might as well be on the edge of the world. Apocalyptic winds ravage the barren landscape. Their mistreated and increasingly stubborn horse refuses to work. And their only source of food (boiled potatoes) is growing scarce. Even as the situation grows worse and worse, the pair list through the same actions expecting different results. The world hasn’t crushed their spirits. Rather, they appear to move through the world without any spirit at all. They keep waiting for something to happen to them. But they are unable, or at least unwilling, to make anything happen for themselves.
Throughout the film, the farmer’s ill-treatment of the horse echoes in the distance. Perhaps it was the kind of misdeed that summons winds and blights crops. But, as the video essay below explains, the father and daughter’s repetitive purgatory is not a punishment. It’s a state of mind: a destructive complacency, best described by who else but Nietzsche himself.
Watch “Understanding Nietzsche’s Connection to The Turin Horse“:
Who made this?
The Movement Image is a film journal edited by Grant Kerber and Paul Ebenkamp. Their companion YouTube channel contains videos based on content from the journal and analogous projects. You can subscribe to The Movement Image on YouTube here. You can check out the journal’s website here.
More Videos Like This
- Here’s Slate on why Hollywood gets Nietzsche wrong (“Nietzsche is about as misunderstood as the teenage boys who like him”)
- Why Béla Tarr transcends the void
- Here’s the trailer for the making-of documentary about The Turin Horse, Tarr Bela, I Used to Be a Filmmaker. The documentary is an essential watch for anyone looking for a more personal perspective to Tarr’s filmography
- Here’s Thomas Elsaesser, an international film historian and professor at the University of Amsterdam, introducing The Turin Horse
- Béla Tarr brought his 1994 film Sátántango to the 2019 Berlinale, and it raised a lot of “confusing” emotions for the director (“I cannot say I am happy…I cannot say I am sad…I became 25 years older”). Also: if you want to hear Tarr absolutely obliterate over-edited Hollywood films, this is the clip for you.
- Here’s Béla Tarr and film critic Howard Feinstein discussing the filmmaker’s understated humor, the evolution of his style, and the history of black and white photography in Hungry