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Human nature is explored through the eyes of horses in wildly entertaining Icelandic tale

OF HORSES AND MEN (HROSS Í OSS) (Benedikt Erlingsson, 2013)
MoMA Film, Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53rd St. between Fifth & Sixth Aves.
March 11-17
Tickets: $12, in person only, may be applied to museum admission within thirty days, same-day screenings free with museum admission, available at Film and Media Desk beginning at 9:30 am

Iceland’s entry for the 2013 Academy Awards and winner of the 2014 Nordic Council Film Prize, Benedikt Erlingsson’s black comedy, Of Horses and Men, takes an absurdist look at the relationship between humans and horses, incorporating love, sex, pain, responsibility, friendship, religion, and death in darkly comic and heart-rending ways. In a tight-knit community spread across a sweeping rural landscape in Iceland, horses are far more plentiful than people. One morning, Kolbeinn (Ingvar E. Sigurdsson) goes for a ride aboard his gorgeous white mare as men, women, and children come outside to watch him pass by like it’s a parade. But a shocking, unexpected encounter with Solveig’s (Charlotte Bøving) black stallion sets into motion a series of interconnected vignettes, each successive one featuring a minor character from a previous scene. Lust, land disputes, gender distinction, and other agreements and disagreements lead to either tragedy or joy, but, of course, this being Iceland, the former is far more prevalent, especially as more and more Brennivin (Black Death) and other drink is consumed. Writer-director Erlingsson’s debut feature is gorgeously photographed by Bergsteinn Björgúlfsson, whose camera moves lovingly over the green fields and mountainous valleys, treating the horses like Hollywood sirens, zooming in on their eyes to show the reflection of the people who seek to control them, equating the basic animal instincts of both species. The horses in the film are no mere props; Erlingsson, who grew up in a theatrical family and has directed numerous stage productions (in addition to owning a horse, whom he called his “life companion,” for thirty years until recently having to put her down), treats the animals like characters in their own right, revealing their, dare we say, humanity. Produced by Icelandic cinema legend Friðrik Þór Friðriksson (Children of Nature, Mamma Gógó), Of Horses and Men is a dark, wildly entertaining treatise on human nature among a rather quirky and unusual equestrian set. The film is being shown March 11-17 at the Museum of Modern Art as part of the ongoing MoMA Presents series.

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