A Time For Drunken Horses Movie Review
On the Iranian side of the Kurdish border with Iraq, a young boy names Ayoub (Ayoub Ahmadi) -- along with three brothers and two sisters -- toil away as day-laboring book smugglers while their father (also a smuggler) is gone at work. Tragedy strikes when they learn that their dwarf brother, 15-year old Madi (Mehdi Ekhtiar-Dini) will die in a month from an unknown illness, and that only an immediate operation will extend his life, a few extra months, at that.
Ayoub's sister Ameneh (Ameneh Ekhtiar-Dini) agrees to marry an Iraqi if the groom's family pays for Madi's operation. A deal is struck, but the mother-in-law backs out as she wants nothing to do with the dying kid, so she gives the family a mule instead. It's up to Ayoub to get Madi and the mule over the frozen mountains to Iraq, where he can sell the animal to raise money for the operation.
I'm sure life really is like this for the Kurds, but I'm really not sure I care to watch a movie about it. In case you haven't figured it out from the rather morose plot summary, A Time for Drunken Horses is one of the most boring and utterly uninspired films ever put to celluloid, redeemed only by its zippy 77-minute running time and the few scenes where the smugglers' horses are getting drunk -- hence the title -- in order to be coerced into walking through the snow. Seriously, there is not even a big ending to rally around. There's not even an ending at all. The movie just stops, as if they ran out of money.
As for Bahman Ghobadi's filmmaking, there's a lot left to be desired, too. While no one in front of or behind the camera has much obvious talent (though Ghobadi's direction is at least competent), the biggest razz is earned by the subtitles, which give you the distinct impression you're missing an awful lot. Worse than a dubbed Kung Fu movie, we probably get to read a subtitle for one line out of every four spoken. Then again, maybe additional titles weren't required since nothing much was happening. Or maybe the translator just didn't understand Kurdish.
Now, I'm sure if my life were pathetic enough that I had to inebriate a horse to raise money for my kid brother's operation or I had to hear other kids shrug and say things like, "No, my dad and his mule were blown up by a mine," this movie might have contained some appeal. But as it stands, very few viewers are going to be inspired to wake up long enough to feel empathy for these poor characters, brave though they might be.
Maybe Ghobadi could go back to the drawing board and make a movie just about drunken horses. Now that would be something to sit up for.
Aka Zamani barayé masti asbha.
A time for sleeping in a movie theater.
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