Review by Tracey A-M
Director: Benedikt Erlingsson
Cast: Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson; Charlotte Bøving
Running Time: 81 Minutes
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.