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Béla Tarr has declared that this film, winner of the Jury Grand Prize at Berlin, will be his last. It is loosely based on an incident in Turin in 1899 when the philosopher Nietzsche witnessed a horse being whipped in the street and subsequently suffered a breakdown, from which he never recovered.
The man who whipped the horse is a farmer who ekes out an existence with his daughter and their horse-drawn cart. We are immersed in their daily grind and the sheer physical effort of their lives; as the old horse gets sick they must accept that it will be unable to go on sustaining them.
Visually extraordinary and shot in black and white by regular collaborator Fred Kelemen, the film, like Michael Haneke's THE WHITE RIBBON, echoes the early 20th-century images of German photographer August Sander. Tarr's trademark long-take approach is pared down even further - to the barest bones and a mere 30 long takes - and the result is a gauntly beautiful drama.