The story goes that the 45-year-old Nietzsche, already getting headaches and feeling generally anxious, was going out to check his mail, or buy some potatoes, and he saw a cart-driver get down from his cart and start bashing his horse because it wouldn't move. The philosopher, suddenly overcome by the sight, burst into tears and threw his arms around the horse's neck to protect it.
Then he collapsed. Later he told his mother, "I've been so stupid." and never wrote another word for the last decade of his life. Something along those lines.
Bela Tarr's new film The Turin Horse tells us what happened to the horse in the six days before its collapse in the town square. The answer is not very much, except that it got slowly sicker and sicker, and the cart-driver and his daughter, whose livelihoods depend on it, get poorer and poorer. They boil a potato every day, the well dries up, their lamps go out. But everything that happens takes on a Beckettian significance.
"This," said Tarr at the press conference afterwards, "is a film about the unbearable heaviness of life."
The good thing about Bela Tarr films is that if you nod off, which happens more and more to me, is that when you wake up again it's usually still the same shot. Which is handy.