Of Horses and Men (Hross I Oss) : Review by Tracey A-M

Review by Tracey A-M  

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Director: Benedikt Erlingsson

Cast: Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson; Charlotte Bøving

Running Time: 81 Minutes

Review

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 humour.

Rating: 8/10.

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