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Of Horses and Men

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Hross í oss / Iceland / 2013 / Dir. Benedikt Erlingsson / 81 mins / comedy & drama / starring Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson, Charlotte Bøving & Johann Pall Oddson

 

Screened as part of the Chicago International Film Festival

An Icelandic farming community is the center of a series of overlapping vignettes that explore relationships between humans and horses in Of Horses and Men. And it’s not as weird as it sounds.

Horses today function as both a utility and a pet to us, but writer-director Benedikt Erlingsson hopes you may just see them as equals by the end of the film. From the proud gait of a show horse to a look of attraction – lust, even – between stallion and mare, Erlingsson captures remarkable humanistic “performances” from the horses featured on-screen. We recognize ourselves in them.

Whether this film does much for you or not will depend on how much you’re willing to put into analyzing the film. For example, I was struck by how the horses allow themselves to be boxed in by a simple rope stretched around posts to form a pen. They could easily march straight through the imaginary barrier, but they don’t. Do we do this, too? What imaginary borders do we, as humans, allow to control and restrict us? This moment of clarity was powerful, but wasn’t duplicated as often as I’d have liked in the film. For those worried that the concept may be a bit heavy-handed, Of Horses and Men could actually stand for more cleverness.

The first of six stories featured here is an outstanding short film in its own right – it draws lines between man and horse that I felt excited to explore – but the rest that follows comes up underwhelming as Erlingsson fails to again reach that height of storytelling. Still, a small idea gets a small movie, and at only 80 minutes this is a bite-sized eye-opener that will shift your worldview in its own slight way.

 

Icelandic, Swedish, English with subtitles. 81 minutes.

 

by Taylor Sinople

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