Is it a bit much for a man to believe that he and his fellow residents of Kyrgyzstan are descended from centaurs and to actually be called Centaur? It might be a nickname, but this indulgence has stuck with him for his entire life. The myth seems to drive Centaur into stealing horses in order to give them their freedom, although the point is perhaps a little too obtuse for foreign audiences. Centaur lives in an idyllic though impoverished part of the country, along with his beautiful deaf wife and their five-year-old son, who might be mute or just a late bloomer; the importance and difficulty of communication is a recurring theme throughout the film.
Unsurprisingly, his horse thievery has calamitous consequences for the family, although there’s a minor revelation that offers the type of coincidence usually deployed by lazy soap opera writers. When Centaur explicitly states his motivation for actually stealing horses, it’s a truly curious one. Even the most avid of international cinephiles are unlikely to have seen much from Kyrgyzstan, and this unfamiliarity means that this discovery lacks context. In short, it just seems a little odd to risk so much on the basis of his motivation.
It’s a story that gently and delicately unfolds, in stark contrast to the dangerously fast galloping of the stolen horses as they move across the austerely beautiful plains of the Asian country. As Centaur, Aktan Arym Kubat (who also directed the film) rides without the use of a saddle or harness – even while holding his arms aloft to feel the wind. These brief sequences are brilliantly realised and take on an eerie beauty. The entire piece is pulled off with aplomb, and while it’s a fairly gentle story, Centaur’s conflicted views on trying to retrain some semblance of traditional beliefs in the modern world give the story gravitas. Certain aspects of the film could be inaccessible to some audiences, denying them a strong emotional connection with the characters, but Centaur is still oddly enchanting.
Centaur does not have a UK release date yet.
For further information about the 67th Berlin Film Festival visit here.