OF HORSES AND MEN
2014, 77 minutes
Review by Joshua Handler
Of Horses and Men shows tonight at MoMA at 6:15 PM as part of New Directors/New Films and will show on Monday at 6:30 at the Film Society of Lincoln Center's Walter Reade Theater. I will be interviewing writer/director Benedikt Erlingsson on Monday and will publish the interview afterward.
Utilizing the natural beauty of Iceland to ironic effect, Erlingsson frequently sets shocking scenes against this serene backdrop, making the matters at hand much more horrifying. Erlingsson's control over the contrasting tones of the film is very impressive, especially when considering that this is his feature film debut. In a lesser filmmaker's hands, the film would be tonally uneven and the humor would simply be too dark. Erlingsson seems to know when to pull back on the darkness so as not to make it overwhelming.
There's not a lot more to say about this movie other than I really enjoyed it. Of Horses and Men is a highly unusual experience, but again, if you have an offbeat, dark sense of humor, this movie will definitely be for you - life, love, and death are intermixed, sometimes to bizarre effect. However, what shines through above the inhumanity is the humanity that Erlingsson shows his characters. Erlingsson treats the horses as he does the humans - with respect and love. He also pokes fun at all of his characters because he realizes their ridiculousness. Of Horses and Men is a film of contrasting styles and tones, but that's what makes it such an impressive piece of work.