Of Horses and Men

Film Title: Of Horses and Men

Director: Benedikt Erlingsson

Starring: Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson, Charlotte Bøving, Helgi Björnsson

Genre: Drama

Running Time: 81 min

Fri, Jun 13, 2014, 00:00

   

This unpleasant, uneven Icelandic drama concerns an isolated equestrian community hat, despite its apparent dependence on the pretty, wild horses of the area, seems to view manes and tails as characteristics that fall somewhere between the rat and faecal matter.

An opening sequence follows Kolbeinn, a stiff country gentleman, as he calls on eager local widow, Solveig. When the mare he is riding – his pride and joy – is interfered with by a local stallion, he promptly shoots the poor beast for giving it up too easily.

The incident sets the tone for a sequence of mishaps, funerals and horse butchery. In theory, these shaggy, grim overlapping vignettes ought to persuade us that we’re watching a black comedy. In practice, there’s little by way of levity, dark hued or otherwise.

No horses were killed during this production, promises an end title card. We’re also informed that the people onscreen are horse lovers. Sadly, this news does little to justify the random collection of equine abuses we’ve been subjected to for some 81 minutes. One beast is castrated; another is disembowelled. Others are dragged into wacky subplots. Wire fences deemed incompatible with ancient public thoroughfares cause neighbourly disputes – with disastrous consequences. One local rides his horse out to a Russian ship in the hope of buying alcohol – with disastrous consequences.

The landscape, flanked by volcanoes and marvels of the glacial age, is beautifully shot. The horses are lovely to behold until they’re snipped at or bludgeoned. But the chorus of plotlines never does congeal into a satisfying narrative. Kolbeinn and Solveig’s potentially romantic subplot (the strongest strand of the film) is pushed to the sidelines in favour of less interesting characters and developments.

We wait for a Night of the Equus-style revenge sequence that never comes.