Amidst the raft of new films about to appear under discussion in the small corner of the BBC where I once again find myself working, The Turin Horse has not featured. Not once has its name been mentioned. Bela Tarr belongs to that parallel cinematic world, the one that makes no money but is adored by the festivals. Someone whose work never has been and never will be 'commercial'; but who has made film after film nevertheless. He reflects the peculiar taxonomy of the film world. It would be interesting to see a proper Jeremey Deller style Venn Diagram, mapping the vagaries of cinema, from Transformers to Tarr.
Tarr himself comes across in his interviews as lugubrious, armed with a self-effacing sense of humour and a didactic if understated belief in the value of what he's doing. Something which is reflected in his films. These have an economy all their own. Turin Horse is two hours twenty long. It takes place on a single location which looks a bit like the set of a Martin Mcdonagh play. The dialogue is sparse. There are essentially two characters and a horse. It ends as it begins, in darkness. My sister, with whom I went to see it, came out declaring it was bleak, and there are what can only be called Beckettian echoes, but in spite of its austerity, it seemed to me a film steeped in a shrewd, unpretentious humour. To my eyes this was neither a long film nor a heavy one; it was eminently enjoyable. In another parallel universe, one where Bresson is the norm, it might even be considered overly 'commercial'.
Not that this is going to be acknowledged. The director will be tarred with the usual clichés and banished to the 'difficult' salon. People will continue to prefer their US TV box-sets as a way of filling up rainy afternoons. It's the way of the world and there would appear to be no escaping it, but if you're thinking of going to see The Turin Horse, go with an open mind and your sense of humour switched on. Just because it's long and in black and white doesn't mean it's not full of enjoyable detail nor that it doesn't contain several comical moments. And if you're a fan of the potato there's even more to get your teeth into.