From David N. Butterworth@21:1/5 to All on Sun Jun 5 10:17:24 2016
OF HORSES AND MEN (2013)
A film review by David N. Butterworth
Copyright 2016 David N. Butterworth
**1/2 (out of ****)
Love, sex, and horses take center stage in Benedikt Erlingsson's equine-accented debut, "Of Horses and Men" ("Hross i Oss"), which took the
Best New Director award at 2013's San Sebastian International Film
Festival, along with several Audience Awards for Best Film the following year--at CPH PIX, Goteborg, and Tromso International.
Set in a bleak yet breathtaking Icelandic community where everyone
works to know everyone else's business (binoculars are clearly a big seller down at the General Store), the film is lovely to look at, from the
wide-angled beauty of its staggering scenery to the comely close-ups of its four-legged stars--coats, eyes, and lashes are all brought into intimate
focus by Bergsteinn Bjorgulfsson's camera, while David Thor Jonsson's score clops along in tandem with the horses' strange and unique gaits.
"Of Horses and Men" is comprised of several loosely-connected
vignettes, often with unexpected outcomes: a man's prized mare is
compromised by a randy stallion; a vodka lover's chase after a departing
boat becomes his undoing; two men feud over natural boundaries; a young wrangler proves her mettle by solely rounding up a team of wild horses;
lost in a blizzard, a tourist is forced to take drastic action. While Erlingsson skillfully juggles humor along with sequences of a more
unsettling nature, some of the characters' motivations are a little tricky
to grasp--perhaps you have to be Icelandic to fully appreciate the
director's intent; those in Peoria, I daresay, will have no chance.
But despite this cultural aloofness, as prevalent as the barren
landscapes and the raging hormones, this unusually frank film mostly
pleases through the passion of its performers, hoofed or otherwise.
The end credits make a particular point of stating that no horses were harmed during the making of the film lest viewers come away feeling a
little uneasy after some of the tragic denouements depicted. There's no
such disclaimer about the fates of its human players, mind.