Like a little will-o'-the-wisp the trailer of the Icelandic film project Hross í oss (Of Horses and Men) has been wandering around the net since last year and arousing attention, in spite of its bizarre movie poster. What in the world had they been working on?
The premiere revealed—after comedies, thrillers and subculture—that the movie was about what has always been close to Icelanders: horses and nature. However, Hross í oss is no ordinary horse and nature film, but rather a keyhole peep into Iceland’s past.
In the seventies, life in Skagafjörður was still quiet, predictable and calm. People on remote farms communicated with each other by light signals and binoculars were an important tool in daily life. Together with his actors and some amazing Icelandic horses, director Benedikt Erlingsson has created a masterpiece.
The crew had to deal with dangerous situations during the shooting, Erlingsson admitted to Morgunblaðið, and as a spectator you feel the intensity of danger and survival. However, no horse was harmed or tortured, thanks to the great work of the eight horse trainers, led by Benedikt Líndal.
Hross í oss is the essence of Iceland. The movie tells of oddities in life and love affairs, and how both are tightly connected with nature—be it in the sexual intercourse of stallion and mare or of man and woman. Wherever the story itself seems a little weak, pictures of incredible strength and poetry capture the eye of the beholder. And because they do so with such immensity, the film needs no spoken words. You need not understand the Mongolian sailor caressing the horse on the suspension bridge. And the grandeur of the Swede Johanna with her six hand horses deserves nothing but reverent silence.
Iceland is wild and tender.
Hross í oss masterfully weaves together parables; negative passion, such as breach of peace, drunkenness or vengefulness are punished, the positive passion finds reward. The film also describes the experiences of two foreigners, deeply touching as acts of initiation, although they could hardly be more different from each other. In a bizarre way, it shows how men lose face, in a double sense, and how in the end everything is gone with the wind. Iceland has no real memory, because people are facing the wind and not the past, and because you don’t run down your neighbor. No wonder the priest chooses the same words of praise at any funeral: XX var skapmikill maður (XX was a man full of passion).
Man is wild and tender.
Horses are everywhere in this movie. Strong and fast, life-giving, overwhelmingly wild and yet tender, and always at people’s side, up to the last breath. In the static nature shots horses are the moving elements. They move people. They move the soul. At the same time they are the stationary element, as if to indicate, “why are you going mad?” They represent beauty, power, and eternity in this loving story that does not condemn ugliness and weakness.
Horses are wild and tender.
Hross í oss is an ode to the Icelandic horse. It celebrates in a captivating way the horse as the only reliable truth besides human banter and trifle, it straightforwardly makes plain: without the horse you people are nothing in this country.
Hross í oss is poetry in moving pictures.
Hross í oss is currently being screened at Icelandic cinemas (note that the film is not yet shown with English subtitles but as there is little dialogue, some of which is in English, the film is accessible to non-Icelandic speaking viewers). Click here for screenings and tickets. The film will also be screened at the international film festival in San Sebastián, Spain, later this month.
Dagmar Trodler - [email protected]