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Friday, March 21, 2014


2014, 77 minutes
Not Rated

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.

Benedikt Erlingsson's dark comedy/drama Of Horses and Men careens from flat-out hilarious to dramatic and disturbing.  The film was the Icelandic submission to the Academy Awards and tells interconnecting stories about people and their relationship to horses.  I've never quite seen anything like Of Horses and Men.  It's deadpan (and sometimes racy) humor mixed with grisly violence make this a potent treat.  Erlingsson's use of humor and grisly violence isn't like Martin McDonagh or Quentin Tarantino's use of this mixture because the violence here is against animals and hits hard.

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.


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