Of Horses and Men Screen 10 articles

Of Horses and Men

2013

Of Horses and Men Poster
  • ...An (I presume) allegorical conflation of human and animal instincts by Icelandic director Benedikt Erlingsson, which shoots for dark comedy but ends up closer to tragedy—and not intentionally.

  • Equine co-stars trotting through the wide-open spaces are the main pleasure in this rather folksy movie, though the often-prickly bond between (hu)man and horse also makes for some potent moments. Filmmaking is quietly elegant, with some sly equivalences - one woman wins over a bunch of men by corralling a bunch of horses; another gelds a stallion in the same steely way with which she pursues a reluctant male - but I just didn't buy any of the more extreme punchlines.

  • These horses, and by extension, the world itself, have no regard for the folly of man, and Of Horses and Men, pristinely directed by Benedikt Erlingsson, asserts this notion with at least four interwoven, alternately startling vignettes... Erlingsson's insistence on starting each vignette with close-ups of horses' eyes grows baldly repetitive, but it's hardly enough to condemn a movie brimming with clever, memorable imagery.

  • The proximity of man and beast, and the blurring of those categories, has seldom been expressed with such earthy authenticity. The film’s aim is not to romanticize in the manner of Black Beauty, or make symbols of its equine characters as in War Horse, but to affirm traits in animals that we, out of perceived supremacy, tend to deny.

  • Benedikt Erlingsson’s Of Horses and Men, which has been wending its way along the festival circuit, is a prime example of a crowd-pleasing movie that manages to charm audiences in an honest, ungimmicky fashion.

  • Mr. Erlingsson, an actor directing a brisk debut feature, doesn’t use the characters for deadpan jokes or lessons (except maybe that the horsewomen are the real go-getters of the bunch). He pushes ahead with efficient visuals, snappy transitions and a driving score split between cantering rhythms and choral hymns. All the same, it’s not quite apparent what these characters do besides go on roundups, get into quandaries and spy on one another.

  • The tales the film spins are both bawdy, in their focus on animalistic lusts—more than one species is seen to copulate outdoors, gruntingly—and at times pleasingly legendary, with incidents of retributive blindness, unexpected visions, and land disputes as vicious as in the times of the Sagas. The film gets laughs at backwards folkways... but the humor is also nostalgic in its passed-down broadness. The final shot is a frankly elegiac picture of community ritual.

  • Erlingsson is best known as an actor, yet his debut shows real flair for meticulously constructed humour, vignettes which build skilfully from titters to guffaws and which deliver cracking physical punch-lines and the occasional shock. He’s ably assisted by a cast who balance believability with comic assurance while never overplaying the material.

  • What a pleasure to meet a movie that tells its story visually! Details of behavior matter. The ritual of bridling a horse gets carried out in ways that characterize the riders, and there is one moment, in which a young woman accomplishes the apparently impossible, that is crowd-pleasing without being over the top—all presented briskly and with hardly any dialogue.

  • It successfully combines its dark humour with a reflection on the changing nature of seduction and film. This is mirrored in the shifting relationships between horses and men. Vernhardur, a drunk, makes his horse swim out to a Russian trawler, where he buys what he thinks is vodka, but is in fact treated alcohol that kills him. This might appear a simple, tragic, comic narrative about the preservation of Icelandic nature and horses, but it is a more complex reflection of global connectivity.

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