Sunday, May 04, 2014

SFIFF: Of Horses and Men

Saturday night at the SF International Film Festival, I saw Of Horses and Men, an Icelandic film by Benedikt Erlingsson. It's a collection of interlocking vignettes taking place in a small rural community in Iceland, where horses mediate social standing, survival, death & even sex for the inhabitants. The miniature stories are harsh but grimly funny & reflect a proudly tough-minded view of life. An especially visceral episode in which a man saves his own life in a snowstorm could have come from an Icelandic saga.

The film's captivating opening sequence records the Icelandic horses' beautiful manes & almost comically fastidious, high-stepping gait. The animals look pony-sized but are clearly sturdy. They witness all the events in the film, & everything happens in accord with the countryside's stark but majestic landscape.

There is not much dialogue, though we get to hear 7 different languages over the course of things. I liked the movie's score, which includes solemn choirs as well as rustic, Celtic-sounding dance music. The screening I attended was full, & there was laughter as well as gasps of surprise & apprehension. Some audience members were a bit traumatized by what happens, & the people on both sides of me covered their faces with their hands at some point.

§ Hross í oss (Of Horses and Men)
Director: Benedikt Erlingsson
Iceland/Germany, 2013, 81 mins.

§ The 57th Annual San Francisco International Film Festival
May 2, 2014, 4:30 p.m.  Sundance Kabuki Cinema
May 3, 2014, 8:45 p.m.  Sundance Kabuki Cinema
May 5, 2014, 6:00 p.m.  Sundance Kabuki Cinema

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