From the standpoint of a film enthusiast, the story of The Turin Horse, Béla Tarr’s fateful and fabled final film, began last year at the 61st Berlinale where the film premiered and won both the Silver Bear and FIPRESCI Prize. Critical praise poured over the film, as did the lament for a filmmaker putting a self-imposed cap on his output. But behind the scenes in Berlin was a small but mighty Minneapolis delegation celebrating the road to Berlin and reminiscing the seeds of a production that leads somewhat inevitably to the Walker Art Center.
In 2007, the Walker invited Tarr for a Regis Dialogue and mounted a full retrospective of his films. From his early social satires to his more recent ethereal masterpieces, the monthlong, nine-film series made for an overwhelming and thrilling experience. At the forefront was an artist who personified a singular vision, exemplified by his one-hour made-for-TV version of Macbeth with only two shots and the seven-and-a-half hour tour de force Sátántangó.
The retrospective left a mark on Minneapolis resident and CEO of local production company Werc Werk Works Elizabeth Redleaf and then-president of production Christine Walker. With the experience of Tarr’s Regis Dialogue and Retrospective tucked in her back pocket, Redleaf, some months later, had the opportunity to meet Tarr, and the two agreed to a collaboration.
By then Tarr had admitted that his next film would be his last and all speculated that he would do everything in his power to film his truth to perfection. “When we got involved with The Turin Horse, we never expected that the film would have so many delays on account of casting, weather, etc.,” says Christine Walker. “Then again we never questioned that the film would be a masterpiece.”
A masterpiece, indeed. And one that exudes uncompromising creative freedom that few producers would take a chance on. But Redleaf has no regrets.
“Working with Bela—on his farewell to cinema, nonetheless—has been such a gratifying and unforgettable experience,” she says. “There’s absolutely no one like him. He pushes his vision to the extreme in this movie, and the result is stunningly beautiful and simply awe-inspiring.”
Like many cinephiles, I too lament that this match made in heaven is to be the last for Béla Tarr. A film to be experienced and endured, The Turin Horse is not to be missed and not to be forgotten.
The Turin Horse makes its premiere run this weekend at the Walker Cinema in the glory of 10 reels of black-and-white 35mm film.
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