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Béla Tarr’s The Turin Horse

Béla Tarr, The Turin Horse, 2011, still from a black-and-white film in 35 mm, 146 minutes. Ohlsdorfer (János Derzsi) and his daughter (Erika Bók).

“WHAT IS THIS DARKNESS?” a woman asks her father near the end of Béla Tarr’s The Turin Horse as a sudden, fathomless obscurity descends on their isolated hovel. Of all contemporary filmmakers, the Hungarian director is the one most acquainted with the night, the cosmic desolation he infers from the vileness of humanity manifest in stark, tenebrous settings besieged by relentless elements. In Tarr’s sodden, seven-and-a-half-hour masterwork Sátántangó (1994), his characters walk out in rain—and back in rain. In The Turin Horse, a fierce, incessant wind shrieks across the steppe, awhirl with dust and detritus, battering the house and barn where father and daughter exist in a kind of medieval perpetuity. When the storm finally abates at film’s end, it brings not relief but suspension: A silence falls upon their abode so utter that it portends the end of the world. In what he has

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