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Of Horses and Men – Movie Review

Of Horses and Men

Of Horses and Men – Review by Frank L.

Director: Benedikt Erlingsson
Writer: Benedikt Erlingsson
Stars: Ingvar EggertSigurðsson, Charlotte Bøving, HelgiBjörnsson

The eye of a horse, like a well made mirror, has a facility to reflect an image through what appears to be great depths of liquid. Erlingsson uses this facility several times to underline the intense relationship that exists between man and horse, horse and man, horse and woman and woman and horse. It is all set in an Icelandic landscape which is harsh in its beauty and which accentuates the remoteness of the society which Erlingsson scrutinises. It is a society consisting of very few families or individuals each living in their own houses at considerable distances from each other.

They observe each other through binoculars. The landscape is populated also by tough Icelandic horses. There is an accommodation between the horses and the humans. Erlingsson, in this his debut feature, tells four stories. There is a certain interplay between the stories in particular when the human community comes together in the formal rituals which accompany a death. However the main premise remains the relationship between the horse, male and female, and the human, male and female.

There are some extraordinary scenes. The immaculate and somewhat fastidious Kolbeinn (Ingvar E.Sigurdsson) saddles his grey mare and as he does so he moves his open palm almost amorously along her back and over her rump. It is a fine preliminary to his calling on Solveig (Charlotte Boving) about whom he has amorous desires to drink tea politely with her, her mother and her small son.

All is genteel. While this little ceremony plays out, the relationship between the tethered mare and a stallion, who is grazing nearby, is developing at a faster pace. Both mare and stallion are aroused by each others’ proximity. By the time Kolbeinn leaves the tea ceremony the stallion is fully aroused. Kolbeinn untethers his grey mare, mounts her to ride home but the stallion is not to be denied; he breaks out of his field and he too mounts the grey mare with Kolbeinn seated astride helpless and impotent. All is observed aghast, in silence, by Solveig, her mother and her son. It is a magnificent sequence and immaculately shot.

In another sequence the down on his luck, Vernhardur (Steinn Armann Magnusson) mounts a horse bareback and rides him into the sea and the horse swims out to a Russian ship which lies a little distance offshore. The purpose of his unorthodox journey is to obtain vodka. The scenes of man and horse together in the water are captivating. Unfortunately for Vernhardur there was a linguistic misunderstanding and he drinks something other than vodka.

Erlingsson has created a film of admiration of a small community and its everyday concerns. After seeing the movie, what remains in the mind are the tough Icelandic horses, the vast harsh Icelandic landscape and the tough no-nonsense people who co-exist with both. Impressive.

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