It's hard to expect what an Icelandic film that centers around horses will eventually pan out to be and in "Of Horses and Men," even as the credits roll the confusion still heavily weighs on you. It's romance, it's drama and it's comedy in the darkest sense but none of this categorization helps to solve the perplexing plot that is this movie.
What we have is a small town in Iceland where everybody knows what everybody else is up to -- to the point that carrying binoculars is the equivalent of having a cellphone in the modern age. The film revolves around multiple plots involving different residents of this small, nosy community.
Now the reason "Of Horses and Men" doesn't fit under one specific genre is because each individual plot-line varies greatly in theme. Without giving too much away, one involves a man and his quest for vodka and another concerns the feud between two small town residents over a fence. If you tried to predict how either one would end you would certainly be off the mark by a mile -- that's how unpredictable this film is.
The problem is that none of these many characters are very engaging. Throughout the film there is no stand out favorite or hero of the group. They're as plain as regular countryside folk. You just don't seem to care if one dies or if two of them fall in love.
Horses are the central tie-in for all the characters as the magnificent observers of human triumph and failure. These majestic creatures are in almost every scene of the movie and for the most part, are the main subject of the many plots. We're treated to beautifully artistic close-ups of their eyes as each plot segways to the next.
In regards to the cinematography by Bergsteinn Björgúlfsson, it is absolutely stunning. The shots of the Icelandic countryside looks of IMAX nature documentary quality. Watching the horses run free in the wild with the countryside as the backdrop is a sight to behold.
What shouldn't be shown on the IMAX screen is the unfortunate and hilarious horse sex scene that awkwardly goes on for longer than what anyone should have to watch, but it adds to the off-beat Icelandic humour.
It's these small scenes that make you want to love the film but shortly afterwards things go back to the mundane, uninteresting banter between characters again. It's hard to keep interest in something that doesn't grab you but instead shows the goods and then closes the store. At many points the film was downright boring.
If “Of Horses and Men” had aspired to be a nature film on the wild horses of Iceland it definitely met its goal -- unfortunately it was supposed to be an Icelandic saga.
As the old saying goes, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it seem interesting for 81 long minutes.
"Of Horses and Men" is presented with English subtitles and will be available for public viewing on Sat March 22 at 6:15pm @ MoMA and Mon, March 24, 6:30pm @ FSLC