City Paper is not for tourists
Of Horses and Men is the best and worst film that Iceland’s tourism bureau could possibly want on the festival circuit. The 2013 drama by Benedikt Erlingsson is set in a small Icelandic village whose residents’ livelihood depends on the horses that have been bred on the island for 10 centuries. Technically, they are ponies, because most stand shorter than 59 inches at the shoulder, but they are strong and stout, with two extra gaits—the tolt and the pace—that provide smoother rides than the trot or canter. In the film, the camera surveys the stunning volcanic landscape from the tantalizing vantage point of a pony’s back. But if you go to Iceland, do not tour the countryside with the “Horse Travel” operator featured in the film. These guys pass flasks back and forth as they ride and leave a tourist behind on a snowy hillside. (He must pull a gross act straight out of a Jack London story in order to make it through the night.) The body count is high for both horses and men, but the takeaway is that it takes more than hardiness to survive.