Of Horses and Men
Directed by Benedikt Erlingsson
A country romance about the human streak in the horse and the horse in the human. Love and death become interlaced and with terrible consequences. The fortunes of the people in the country through the horses' perception.
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★★★½ review by Steven Sheehan on Letterboxd
This strange celebration of man's long standing relationship with horses and their natural habitat is an odd but never less than engaging experience. Director Benedikt Erlingsson forgoes a straight narrative arc to instead tell the story through a range of interwoven vignettes. Each one focusing on a different member of the community in this isolated Icelandic coastal village.
A proud looking man rides his beautiful white mare as the other villagers watch her elegant stride from a distance. He is something of a catch in these parts, the middle-aged woman he shares lunch with as bewitched as the horse he rides in on. On his return home his arrogant control of the beast is undone when a black stallion mounts the mare, rider still in his saddle, sandwiched in the most bizarre ménage à trois you'll probably ever see.
This is just one example of the strange behaviour seen in this place. The humour is drier than the cracked, volcanic pathways these characters gallop across, giving the impression that we're the weirdos for daring to think life should be lived any other way. We are not only shown these majestic animals through our view point. Erlingsson looks at us through their reflective eyes and the roles they play amidst the gamut of human emotions.
The horses are shown in all their regal splendour set against the sparse yet picturesque landscape, the striking photography adding a heavy resonance to each short story. It is the humans who are depicted as the fools, some inflicting cruelty upon their steeds only to find a comeuppance arrive through natures own karma.
Underneath the weirdness sits an ode to the elements and the creatures that grace their surface. Erlingsson is happy to laugh at the lame arrogance we inflict on animals who no doubt look back at us through a mixture of love and hate. Of Horses and Men is an endearing take on a complex relationship between man and beast that really shouldn't work at all, although it seems we couldn't live without each other.
★★★★ review by Michael Scott on Letterboxd
Of Horses and Men (Hross í oss) is one hell of a peculiar film. A curious mixture of nature documentary, character study and ethnographic anecdote, all set against the sparse, timelessness of the Icelandic landscape.
Benedikt Erlingsson's cinematic oddity takes the form of a number of interconnected short stories touting the inter-relationship between humans and horses. Sometimes the humans take the foreground, sometimes the humans. They watch us. We watch them. They run and rut. We run and rut. We get drunk. They eat grass. It is all fun and games until someone loses and eye (or some self respect).
The beauty of Of Horses and Men in the tone. Graceful yet quirky, pepped up by David Thor Jonsson's jaunty score. It takes a while to get a grip on exactly what Elingsson is going for and a while longer for it all to get under the skin but by the time it does the film, its uptight humans and stirring stallions are wondrous to behold.
Of Horses and Men transcends its oddity status and somehow, poetically, manages to capture in lush detail the beautiful symbiotic relationship shared by Iceland's idiosyncratic inhabitants and their equine pals.
★★★★ review by Tee Emm on Letterboxd
Iceland’s submission for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 85th Academy Awards is indeed a delightful curiosity: an anthology of interwoven stories giving us a wry and affectionate examination of the symbiotic relationships between man, horse and the barren, volcanic Icelandic landscape.
Of Horses and Men is set in a rural community populated by eccentric characters and the equine companions around which their lives so heavily revolve.
In opening tale we meet Kolbeinn (Sigurðsson), who seems to be quite the pin up for the local housewives, as he readies both himself and his long-lashed, silver mare to tentatively woo neighbour, Solveig (Bøving). In what is just the first of the absurd images within the film, Kolbeinn vainly parades through the community, head held high, relishing the attention he seems to be garnering from the locals. His horse, which looks slightly small for him, prancing proudly as his overlong legs almost reach the ground. The rendezvous goes well, not only for the middle aged love birds, but for their horses too, as Solveig’s lustful stallion, Brown, is quite taken with Kolbeinn’s horse, leading to humiliation, tragic measures and a bump in the course of true love.
Other strands, all of which are wonderfully dark, include a foolhardy oceanic mission by the local drunk to acquire lethal-strength alcohol from a Russian freight ship, a neighbourhood feud that escalates into tragedy and a mountainous trek in which a young Spaniard finds himself in an Empire Strikes Back style survival dilemma.
Benedikts Erlingson’s debut feature forgoes unnecessary dialogue, relying on a quirky soundtrack of Scandinavian folk music to set the scene and reinforce the sense of tradition in the activities. The equine stars are as much a part of the cast and given the same screen time as their human counterparts, rather than being impassive animal extras, each horse is imbued with their own individual personality. The landscape itself is also an integral part of the film, the stunning, panoramic cinematography accentuating the isolation of the community. Of Horses and Men is sometimes tragic, sometimes touching, but always brimming with deliciously dry humour.
★★★★ review by Peter Valerio on Letterboxd
Interconnecting stories in rural Iceland that focus on the relationship between men and horses. Some stories are comic, some tragic, some both.
★★★★ review by Juan Bacaro on Letterboxd
Divina tragicomedia entrelazada con romance esta película poco tradicional que llega desde Islandia. Resulta majestuosa e hipnótica. Gran pieza del cine contemporáneo.
Son varias historias enlazadas en apenas 75 minutos de duración. Una de mis películas favoritas en lo que va de año. Llevaba rato posando en mi watchlist.
Algunas historias me recuerdan a "Amores perros" (pero con caballos). Y hay un cuento en particular que se me hizo similar (temáticamente) a uno de los "Relatos Salvajes" de D.Szifron. Aunque esto es mera especulación informal y personal.
Por supuesto, "Of horses and men" les evocará también a más de una película de caballos silentes como protagonistas (y hay muchas); así como a los grupos de filmes de viñetas pseudo-independientes que van armando la trama general.
Si son de encariñarse con estos animales galopando en paisajes remotos entonces esta es una experiencia que van a disfrutar. Vale revisar además "The horse boy", documental filmando en Mongolia que une caballos y autismo.
Atrevido y lindo póster. No tan lindo como uno de los momentos de shock que tiene el film hacia su segunda mitad.
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