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February 10, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

In her review of Norwegian director Hans Petter Moland’s Out Stealing Horses (Ut Og Stjaele Hester), which premiered Saturday at the Berlin Film Festival, the Hollywood Reporter’s Deborah Young described the film as “a hugely accomplished meditation on life, guilt and responsibility” and predicted that it would “have no trouble finding its preordained audiences and festival accolades.” Unfortunately, Young is one of the few critics at the festival who has bestowed accolades on the film. The British trade publication Screen Daily, which publishes a daily scorecard of reviews by eight representative international film critics, shows that half of them whipped Horses with dismal reviews — bestowing on it only one out of five stars; one other gave it just two stars; two others, three.

The film’s story is told mostly in flashbacks. An elderly man (Stellan Skarsgård) returns to the Norwegian woods where, as a 15-year-old, he spent an apparently unforgettable summer with his father 50 years earlier. His memories may be mostly idyllic — the film received high praise from most critics for its stunning photography of the woodland scenery — but they are encased in sadness and tragedy. The protagonist’s teenage self (Jon Ranes) rarely has a chance to crack a smile in his portrayal. Indeed, audiences are likely to ask, why would this old man return to the scene of what are mostly cheerless memories? David Ehrlich, who reviewed Horses for Indiewire.com, summed up, “When Moland reaches for the thoughts that bind this fractured narrative together, the words are there, but the sentiments feel as if they’re being layered on top of the film like a glaze.”