Friday, 13 June 2014

SHORT REVIEW: Of Horses and Men (2014)

This short review appears on The Upcoming website here.

Of Horses and Men posits that man and beast are closer than they realize and, in a series of bizarre vignettes, sets out to prove as much. The film is a series of near-silent sketches about people and their relationships with their horses and they range from funny to cruel to poignant to downright strange.

The best of the stories is probably the first, in which two randy horses spoil a tentative romance between their owners by pointing out all too clearly what the two humans really want. This supposed symbiosis between the humans and their horses is represented in various odd ways – in one, a young Swedish woman gains her horse’s trust by managing to chase him down while in another, the way a man uses his horse to survive while stuck in a snowstorm is deeply suggestive. It is not entirely clear whether the film believes that this trade-off is particularly fair – the horses would seem to get a raw deal most of the time – and there seems to be a suggestion that this isolated Icelandic community is in a state of decline, since nearly everyone one of them has a petty gripe or engage in some form of substance abuse. The ending is intriguingly ambiguous on these points as the camera pulls back from a fair in which humans are barely distinguishable amongst the horses on show.

Quite what the ultimate point of the film is will remain open to debate and may even be somewhat moot, since the pleasure of the film is simply in the beauty of its photography, the way it captures the dignity of the horses and the film’s wholly unique and unexpected nature. It is enjoyable, challenging and offers an interesting insight into a strange world that is really quite recognisable.

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