Friday, March 23, 2012


I first saw Béla Tarr's final film, The Turin Horse, last Fall at the Vancouver International Film Festival. Thirteen days into the Festival with 50 films under my belt in, I knew the 2 1/2 hour film, sadistically slotted at 9:30pm, would be a challenge. My high expectations did not fail me, despite my film fatigue. The Turin Horse is a mesmerizing piece of work, full of laconic atmosphere that attempts to lull you into the apocalypse. (Or creation, depending on how you see it.) And lull it did, until Bernard, a third wheel in this two person play, jumped on screen with a shocking monologue that nearly chewed up my brain and spit it out. After the fact, I had to wonder if Bernard's soliloquy was as obtuse as I remembered or was my brain muddled? Either way, the diatribe seemed to hold a key to the mysterious and bleak film that haunted me. My solution? Truck over to the press office, plunk down in a chair on the last day of the festival, and transcribe the speech from a press screener on my laptop. Forget Nietzsche and his syphilitic madness, this is the heart of The Turin Horse. Enjoy.

Bernard: “I’ve run out of palinka. Would you give me a bottle?”
Ohlsdorfer: “Give him some… Why didn’t you go into town?"
B: "The wind’s blown it away."
O: "How come?"
B: "It’s gone to ruin."
O: "Why would it go to ruin?"
B: "Because everything’s in ruins, everything’s been degraded, but I could say that they’ve ruined and degraded everything. Because this is not some kind of cataclysm, coming about with so-called innocent human aid. On the contrary, it’s about man’s own judgement over his own self, which of course God has a hand in, or dare I say: takes part in. And whatever he takes part in is the most ghastly creation that you can imagine. Because you see the world has been debased. So it doesn’t matter what I say because everything has been debased that they’ve acquired and since they’ve acquired everything in a sneaky, underhand fight, they’ve debased everything. Because whatever they touch – and they touch everything – they’ve debased. This is the way it was until the final victory. Until the triumphant end. Acquire debase, debase, acquire. Or I can put it differently if you like: to touch, debase and thereby acquire, or touch, acquire and thereby debase. It’s been going on like this for centuries. On, on, and on. This and only this, sometimes on the sly, sometimes rudely, sometimes gently, sometimes brutally but it has been going on and on. Yet only in one way, like a rat attacks from ambush. Because for this perfect victory it was also essential that the other side… That is, everything that’s excellent, great in some way and noble should not engage in any kind of fight. There shouldn’t be any kind of struggle, just the sudden disappearance of one side, meaning the disappearance of the excellent, the great and the noble. So that by now these winning winners who attack from ambush rule the earth, and there isn’t a single tiny nook where one can hide something from them. Because everything they can lay their hands on is theirs. Even things we think they can’t reach but they do reach are also theirs, because the sky is already theirs and all our dreams. Theirs is the moment, nature, infinite silence. Even immortality is theirs, you understand? Everything, everything is lost forever! And those many noble great and excellent just stood there, if I can put it that way. They stopped at this point and had to understand and had to accept that there is neither god nor gods. And the excellent, the great and the noble had to understand and accept this night from the beginning. But of course they were quite incapable of understanding it. They believed it and accepted it but they didn’t understand it. They just stood there, bewildered but not resigned until something – that spark from the brain – finally enlightened them. And all at once they realized that there is neither god nor gods. All at once they saw that there is neither good nor bad. Then they saw and understood that if this was so, then they themselves do not exist either! You see, I reckon this may have been the moment when we can say that were extinguished, they burnt out. Extinguished and burnt out like the fire left to smolder in the meadow. One was the constant loser one was the constant winner. Defeat victory defeat victory and one day here in the neighborhood I had to realize, and I did realize, that I was mistaken, I was truly mistaken when I thought that there has never been and could never be any kind of change here on earth. Because believe me, I know now that this change has indeed taken place."


Sandy Nawrot said...

Good Lord seriously? At 9:30 at night after 50 movies? It would have chewed me up and spit me out too. But I think having read it now, I'd want to hear it and see it. I often do this kind of thing with my audio books...go back and transcribe. Sometimes you must, if only to really understand it yourself.

Anonymous said...

This is amazing and fantastic. Thanks so much Kathie Smith for the transcription. I really can't say how much I thank you for reminding me of what I heard when I saw the film. This language (in the film) truely deserves your making it accessible to everyone (the public) after the viewing. Wow! Thanks!


Anonymous said...

Thank you for transcribing it and sharing it.

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for posting this.

What do you think this "change" he is discussing in the end there might be? Its interesting how he seems so definite in his claim of the foreclose of a possibility of a new dawn, but then undermines himself immediately. Is it sarcasm? Like that the change he has seen is only for the worst? Or is he maybe referencing the alcohol in a sarcastic way? would be loved! :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the script!

raveneagle said...

Oh that speech in THE TURIN HORSE . . . it out does the speech in NETWORK by character Arthur Jensen [who] tells Howard how the world really works. .... One of the best speeches ever produced in a movie! Arthur Panaro Oct 23, 2015