Starring: Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson, Charlotte Bøving, Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir
Director: Benedikt Erlingsson
Running Time: 81 mins
Of Horses And Men (Hross í oss) is an Icelandic film about a small valley in the countryside where romance blossoms between humans and between horses, although they may not always act the way you’d expect, with a series of bizarre episodes detailing love and death in this quiet corner of Iceland.
This is such a strange film, but in that distincly dark and almost bewilderingly surreal way that only the Scandinavians can really pull off so well. Although its episodic nature doesn’t make it the most intensely riveting watch, it’s full of brilliant humour throughout, both dark and farcical, and mixed in with its unique perspective, often taking the view of the horses looking onto the humans, it makes for a really different watch, and one that will leave you confused, but still thoroughly entertained.
Now, this isn’t a confusing film in the sense that it’s difficult to grasp, because the main story is actually very simple, yet still very clever. It details a few events surrounding the people living in an isolated Icelandic valley, ranging from a young girl’s expertise in horse riding and herding to a Spanish tourist’s exploits in the region, as well as an animal-like romance between two humans that gets more and more primitive by the second.
At times, the fact that the film meanders between these very loosely connected stories does impact on how enthralling it is as a package, and its first two acts don’t always manage to keep you 100% engaged. However, the film really steps up a gear in the final act, bringing more drama to two intriguing stories, all the while using some insanely dark humour to make it all the more striking.
In the end, what really makes this film work is the humour. It’s a slow, quiet and often seemingly inconsequential affair, but its brilliant brand of humour brings a whole other life to it. On the one hand, there are some fantastically silly and utterly hilarious moments, featuring simple enough comedy to make anybody laugh, whilst at others, things just become so strange and surreal that you can’t help but burst out laughing, but it’s really entertaining to watch regardless.
And then there’s the icing on the cake, the dark humour. Director Benedikt Erlingsson does a great job here to make its story engaging, and to introduce some brilliantly hilarious jokes throughout, but it’s the way that he manages to deliver the dark humour so effectively that makes this film ultimately a real treat.
Although there are a good few frank, Scandinavian-esque shocks early on, the darker humour is something that bubbles and bubbles below the surface throughout, building and building towards a final act that just goes all out with some unbelievable sequences, sequences that in any other movie would appear truly bleak and depressing, but such is the strength of the black comedy here that I found them absolutely hilarious, and added hugely to the entertainment value of the film as a whole.
Overall, I really liked Of Horses And Men. It’s a slow and quiet film that definitely builds throughout, with its striking and incredibly dark final act the real highlight, however its interesting selection of stories, coupled with a strange, often even bewildering sense of humour and story perspective throughout, makes for a truly memorable and engaging watch, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.7.