The Legend of Ygg, 2009. 17’
Henie Onstad Art Centre, Noruega. www.hok.no
As in a fable, the legend, the horse, the landscape and death organize the creative world of Marthe Thorshaug, rescuing famous floclorik legends from the Nordic cultures:
“The Legend of Ygg” is modern legend of death riders in Norway. Under the influence of a riding instructor, a group of girl riders drive each other to extremes. Based on an old Norse legend, they use roads to test their own and their horse’s courage. Their aim is to become fearless. The girls go riding in the dead of the night dressed in black. By their use of the road as a ritual arena, they cause mysterious car accidents in the Norwegian countryside.
This 15-minute thriller art film merges with ancient mythology and current circumstances.
Marthe Thorshaug’s Norwegian production is as compelling, complete and beautiful as any art film in memory. Her use of dialogue is sparse and her capture of the playful horses in their own community reflects the sisterhood of riders who gather to ride these adorable ponies.
Each woman is trained to surrender to the rhythm of her horse’s gait. However, the goal is also to keep the horse calm as the ultimate test is faced.
Visually, the natural fullness of the horses’ manes is juxtaposed to the natural, similarly-colored fullness of the women’s hair. Well-groomed but unpretentious and fresh, both show a rugged yet deceivingly tender innocent beauty.
In the end, the horse and rider stand as one on a narrow highway, practicing their hypnotic breathing, merged without fear, disregarding all other senses.
It is here at the end that the soundtrack creates a sitar-like effect with the use of electric guitars and a vibraslap, building a tension as the hypnotic sounds become louder and faster, in time with the rhythmic gallop of the Icelandic horse approaching the final test.
It is in this same moment that the viewer is bewitched, though it is also when a transformation begins. We allow ourselves, almost hungrily, to feel this merging of beast and human, this submission of the self.
And then there is The Reveal. What was earlier an innocent, even idyllic, pastoral harmony now unmasks itself.
A car comes down the road. It is either us, already identifying with the horse and rider, or the car that will move or be destroyed. Can we just step aside and avoid the disaster?
I’m not revealing the end of the film. You’ll have to go to American University’s Katzen Museum in Washington , D.C. to find out about that. But I can reveal a little experiment on viewer reaction.
Marthe Thorshaug, the film’s creator, had communicated with me from her home in Norway that “it’s really interesting to read about the reactions to the film. In my work, the great challenge is to have my films working on as many levels as possible.”
So, I sent her summaries of over 100 individual reactions communicated immediately after viewing her film. The responses indicated that Thorshaug’s goal of diverse interpretations is guaranteed.
(1977) lives and works in Hamar, Norway. She graduated from the Art Academy in Oslo in 2003. Her first solo exhibition in Norway was Comancheria
at Fotogalleriet in Oslo spring 2007. Her work has been acquired by musuems such as THe NAtioanl Museum of Art Norway, Musuem of Cultural History, Norway and Punkt, Norway. Her latest award was 2010 Artist in residence Oslo W17, Kunstnernes Hus.