Of Horses and Men

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Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 11.23.21 AMScandinavian settlers brought ponies to Iceland in the 9th and 10th centuries. With no predators and no imports to dilute the breed in 1,000 years, Icelandics are small, strong, calm, long-lived, well adapted for cold, and fertile. Iceland forbids import of horses, and any Icelandic horse that leaves the island nation cannot ever return. This keeps Iceland’s Icelandics remarkably healthy.

The film follows a set of villagers whose lives revolve around the magnificent horses and the magnificent scenery. The people, however, are not so magnificent, just human. They have their jealousies, rivalries, loves, obsessions, triumphs, fears, and all the rest of the human condition. And all generously lubricated by alcohol. They do things any horse would have the sense to avoid; sometimes shockingly violent. Death is part of life in this Eden of rock, sky, and snow. Survival seems more of a struggle for the humans than the horses.

The film is not so much a story as a series of connected vignettes, a sort of Real Horse Lives of Rural Iceland. It is billed as a comedy/romance, but sees more cinema vérité to this moviegoer. Gorgeous cinematography and taut editing (by Eurpoean standards) make the hour and twenty minutes go at canter. The visual moments told by reflections in the horses’ eyes deserve special attention.

Opens March 11 in New York City.

Phil Neches

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