- 30 Notes On THE TURIN HORSE (1 – 3)
I was in Dundee for an event, and at dinner I was sat across from a film professor. He explained to me that he was placed there because he was generally regarded at the university as a terrible arsehole, and it has been decided that, of all the guests attending the event, I was considered the one most likely to be able to handle him. He told me about a Hungarian film director he particularly admired, who has recently completed a one hundred and forty six minute long film that was comprised of only thirty shots. That film was THE TURN HORSE, and it actually has two directors: Béla Tarr and Ágnes Hranitzky. It was written by Tarr and the novelist László Krasznahorkai. I am writing about it using a constrained Oulipo technique, which I imagine Tarr and Hranitzky would tolerate, in thirty notes to match thirty shots. The film professor, who may or may not have been a terrible arsehole to other people, introduced me to Tarr’s work, and, by extension, the entire field of slow cinema, and I remain incredibly grateful to him for his generosity.
I have gone backwards with Tarr. THE TURIN HORSE, the first film of his that I saw, is his final full film. It is the ultimate distillation of his style and interests, concentrated and minimal. I wonder if Tarr realised he could take his approach no further: if Tarr and Hranitzky had in fact achieved an ultimate form of their process that could not be iterated again. Going backwards from HORSE means seeing elements and approaches added in from that ultimate film. Run the list forward, and you see how carefully tools were subtracted from their box, how everything around the idea was pruned away… how they introduced more and more constraints.
This is my copy of THE TURIN HORSE. I also have a copy on a digital service so I can view it at remote sites on any device. I have never seen it, or any Tarr film, in the cinema. This changes the nature of engagement with the film. It takes special concentration to be with it on its terms. The viewer must immerse in it, must match its wind speed, in order for its smallest things to invest with such massive meaning. This is probably best achieved by being locked in an auditorium with it. For a proper viewing of THE TURIN HORSE, I introduce constraints. A certain time. A muted outside world. Sitting close to the screen. A closed door.