The Turin Horse
László Krasznahorkai, Ágnes Hranitzky, and Béla Tarr, 2011
#5, 2012 Skandies

Excerpt from one review: "an hour of watching people eat a potato"

Title of a different review: "they never seem to finish the potato"

This movie embodies virtually every cliché about imported arthouse cinema.  It's nearly three hours of a couple of weathered-looking people peeling potatoes and watching their laundry dry, in black and white, while the wind howls and the soundtrack plays the same dirgelike notes over and over ad infinitum.  Halfway through, an old man shows up, talks philosophy in subtitled Hungarian, and leaves.  There are occasional reaction shots from a horse, though not the horse referred to in the title.  Unwatchable.

The Loneliest Planet
Tom Bissell, Mikhail Lermontov, and Julia Loktev, 2011
#8, 2012 Skandies

While The Turin Horse is what a bunch of sitcom writers might come up with if the plot called for a character to be dragged to an amusingly opaque arthouse movie, The Loneliest Planet is a type of film I'm more familiar with — it seems like a few of these place high in the Skandies every year.  I'm talking about the kind of movie which looks conventional on the surface, but which indicates that a group of people have walked from Point A to Point B by placing the camera a long distance away and making us watch the characters slowly trudge the entire distance from one side of the screen to the other.  One in which the camera shows the back of someone's head for 54 uninterrupted seconds so that we can really process that the character's hair is stirring a bit in the wind.  And I do get why these movies place high on this list.  The basic idea behind this movie is that the two central characters have a certain type of body language for the first hour, and then something happens, and then they have a different type of body language for the second hour.  If you are into cinema as cinema rather than as a medium in which people happen to tell stories, this compare and contrast exercise might capture a non-verbal experience in a way that is interesting to you.  I am not, and to me it was not.

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