101 critics and curators remember their film highlights of the year
Michael Brooke, Critic, UK
For various domestic reasons, I skipped most of the festival circuit and saw fewer new releases than at any other point in my adult life. But, in reverse alphabetical order (since The Turin Horse was the clear winner).
If this really is Tarr’s last film, it’s one hell of a swansong: an end-of-civilisation parable set in a world that makes Lear’s heath seem like sun-kissed moss.
Fernando F. Croce, Critic, USA
The most dolorously elemental film since Sjöström’s The Wind, the pulverizing bolero to Sátántangó’s tango.
Carmen Gray, Critic, UK
This radically pared-down exercise in apocalyptic entropy is a masterpiece all the more soul-wrenchingly desolate for being Tarr’s last film. The soundtrack alone is beyond words.
Peter Hames, Critic, UK
Reportedly his last film, Tarr’s vision is unlike that of any other contemporary filmmaker...
Nick James, Sight & Sound
This was the year when the m word – masterpiece – lurked about the scene, an overused term I don’t like to see much in Sight & Sound. But let’s just say that for me The Turin Horse and Once Upon a Time in Anatolia are total works that it will hard for their makers to surpass. Of course, Béla Tarr has said he’ll never make another film...
Jonathan Romney, Independent on Sunday, UK
Brutal simplicity distilled to an essence that ‘Beckettian’ doesn’t quite do justice to. A magnificent, authoritative (alleged) swansong.
Andrew Schenker, Critic, USA
Compared to navigating the hordes of filmgoers at Cannes or cramming in as much viewing as possible at Toronto, covering the New York Film Festival seems like a breeze: the press screenings are spread out over four weeks, they take place in the single locale of comfy Lincoln Center and one is rarely called upon to tackle more than three movies a day. But, as in any film fest, fatigue and disappointment inevitably set in, prompting glazed eyes even in response to worthy fare. With this year’s NYFF a decidedly mixed bag, peppered with such twaddle as Shame, The Artist and Miss Bala, the fest experience was defined by a single masterpiece, Béla Tarr’s The Turin Horse.
Hotly anticipated after raves at Berlin and Toronto, Tarr’s latest (and allegedly last) film immerses the viewer in its singularly barren, windswept world from the first shot. As the director’s camera tracks through the confined space of a farmhouse from which it rarely departs, the visual textures and expert sound design conjure up an indelible universe. That this universe is singularly bleak – repetitive, futile, seeming to mock the very idea of significance – is no matter. Tarr finds his meaning in the rhythms of the quotidian, in the very need to go on, no matter how pointless it all may seem. A work of nihilism that left this jaded festivalgoer feeling exhilarated, The Turin Horse was not only the highlight of this edition of NYFF, but the year’s best film.