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Having given us the mesmerising Sátántangó and The Werckmeister Harmonies, Hungarian art-house maestro Béla Tarr has proclaimed this as his last film, and it’s difficult to see where else he could go after this elemental drama. Shot in imposing black and white, it conjures up a backdrop of timeless rural struggle as a farmer and his daughter tough it out in an isolated homestead.
When their trusty carthorse simply refuses to take another step however, it’s the start of six days in which the characters’ world will be dismantled, bit by bit, pitting them against a cruel and indifferent universe. Unfolding at Tarr’s trademark deliberate pace, this is old-school seriousness at its most enveloping, its evident compassion tempered by a profound pessimism about the state of things.
Fittingly, it takes its title from the apocryphal story about Nietzsche being so moved by the sight of a horse being beaten on the streets of Turin that he never wrote again. A fine valedictory effort from a modern great. (Notes by Trevor Johnston.)