And here I thought I was going to be clever by comparing Béla Tarr's latest masterwork, The Turin Horse, to the 1993 Bill Murray vehicle, Groundhog Day. All it took was a quick Google search to dispel any notion that mine was an isolated observation. The comparison does hold quite well, though, as Tarr's picture places its characters, Ohlsdorfer (János Derzsi) and his daughter (Erika Bók) into a framework built upon daily repetition; one bleak, thankless task after the next, lather, rinse and repeat.
Where the two films diverge, however, is in intent; Tarr's story seems focused on the social plight of those made to subsist on little food and only meager shelter, while unnamed others have "acquired everything in a sneaky, underhanded fight." The unending storm raging outside Ohlsdorfer's cottage, paired with the repetition across the film's documentation of six days, traps the characters in this world, allowing for few options other than those that preserve them in a state barely resembling life.
The Turin Horse is some kind of horror show; one where base reality becomes the stuff of nightmares, a slow, creeping apocalyptic vision that indicts the day-to-day, hand-to-mouth existence of the majority. Tarr's affinities lie with Ohlsdorfer, his daughter and the titular beast, whose own degraded state is reflective of the people in the film. Those not suffering under such conditions are kept out of view, hidden by the storm and ignored by the film, save a brief mention of having "debased everything."
This is reportedly Tarr's final work as a director. If this holds true, it's one hell of a way to end his career. Tarr and his regular crew of collaborators have crafted a slow-moving, elegiac farewell of such depth and substance that one wonders if they ever could have topped it.
The Turin Horse will screen for the public at Cinema 21 on Feb. 18th at 8:15pm and Feb. 21st at 7pm.