Out Stealing Horses: A ravishing and evocative exploration of the past
Quite probably the majority of public recognition actor Stellan Skarsgård receives is due to his forays into Hollywood, from dispensing advice to an Avenger about whatever interchangeable computer-animated menace they’re tackling, to gyrating alongside Meryl Streep as they sing Abba songs. Though fun, it’s not like these films would be all that taxing as a performer (aside from having to listen to Pierce Brosnan’s rendition of When All Is Said and Done, which should officially be recognised as a war crime). Of course, Skarsgård is capable of excellence, which he ably demonstrates in Hans Petter Moland’s ravishing Ut og stjæle hester (Out Stealing Horses).
In the final weeks of 1999 (cue the background news story fretting about the Millennium bug), Trond (Skarsgård) moves to a small Norwegian town, close to the Swedish border. The loss of his wife weighs heavily on him, and he’s taken aback to run into a face from the past, Lars (Bjørn Floberg), who he knew when they were both children at a time that was only just post WWII. These memories and meditations on the past cause Trond to ponder that fateful summer, and how it made him who he is.
Much of the story is told in flashback, with Jon Ranes, as the young Trond, sharing about equal screen time with Skarsgård, and doing an exemplary job of it too. The scope of the film’s ambition is considerable, with what could be an insular experience (the personal reflections of a 67-year old man) taking on an epic complexity.
The flashbacks are largely concerned with the forest where the protagonist once spent a summer with his beloved father, and it’s difficult to think of a movie where something as dismissively nondescript as a forest has been captured so evocatively. It’s a place of noise, of violence, and of wonder. Jarring camera angles are combined with judicious editing and sound effects, creating something that can be beautifully overwhelming to watch. “We decide for ourselves what will hurt,” says Trond’s father to his son, words that take on a greater truth as this precise and intelligent film takes hold.
Out Stealing Horses (Ut og stjæle hester) does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Berlin Film Festival 2019 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Berlin Film Festival website here.
Watch the trailer for Out Stealing Horses (Ut og stjæle hester) here: