The Nihilism Behind Tarr’s Turin Horse

“-AND I saw a great sadness come over mankind. The best turned weary of their works.

A doctrine appeared, a faith ran beside it: ‘All is empty, all is alike, all hath been!’

And from all hills there re-echoed: ‘All is empty, all is alike, all hath been!'”

Thus Spoke Zarathrusta
“The film’s first image is an extended, deep-focus tracking shot of a man and his domestic beast of burden trundling across a desolate landscape in a howling windstorm. A narrator has already recounted the story of how Nietzsche, while in Turin, Italy, one day in 1889, witnessed a cart driver beating a recalcitrant horse and threw himself, weeping, on the animal’s neck.”

Life keeps echoing. A silent cycle every day. Cleaning the dishes to use it again. Eating to be hungry in some hours. What is philosophy in a visceral life if not a useless argument? Discussing morality and purposes are for those who are above the surface, higher than the common man. No practical use in the raw and poor life. No philosophy could ever perform an immediate task, one must have his needs fulfilled before entitling himself a philosopher.

How empty can life be? How can emptiness devastate you? Life may be a beautiful void that leads us to the other side, whatever that may be. Agonising, repetitive and dumb. A cruel space, a frustrating experience. What if we could transcend human boredom, beyond good and evil, advancing into a noble’s spirit? Maybe it has no practical use, for men are doomed to live in a Ravel’s bolero.

“But who is willing to bother with such a dangerous Perhaps? For that we must really await the arrival of a new style of philosopher, the kind who has some different taste and inclination, the reverse of philosophers so far, in every sense, philosophers of the dangerous Perhaps. And speaking in all seriousness, I see such new philosophers arriving on the scene.” (Beyond Good And Evil)

Maybe the philosopher went mad when he realised his philosophy could reach nowhere within the human world. Reflect on the horse’s pain, refuse to practice immorality; still, the horse needed to fill its purpose. To think of animal abuse is philosophical, to hurt the horse for it to serve man’s purpose is existencial. Raw and visceral, mere existence.

Humans destroy everything. But so does the wind. So does the ocean. We are destroying it together. The purpose it serves, we don’t know, we don’t even know our purposes. Everything man touches becomes corrupted. Engaged on a cycle of “buy and degrade”, “degrade and buy,” we keep serving the wolfs in sheep’s clothes, hoping one day this fight is over so we can live the utopia of the philosopher: a world populated with higher men, with noble beings.

Reality is ultimately empty, open for our illusions to fill it. The material world is crude and in grayscale. Maybe it’s God’s wrath over our heads, the punishment for our pride and disbelief, or a demon that has fallen madly in love with humankind and now won’t stop making life as miserable as he enjoys it. One day we will wakeup from this illusion, one day this sadness will leave humankind, so we will become one with emptiness. May this day be today, the day we joyfully join our transcendental being.

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