Sound + Vision: ‘Horse Money’ – The Past Always Haunts

by M. Shahriza RijadiJun 15, 2021

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Sound + Vision is a column that pairs film reviews with playlists inspired by the films reviewed. For this edition, we welcome M. Shahriza Rijadi who talks to us about Horse Money by iconic Portuguese arthouse director Pedro Costa.

Horse Money
Director: Pedro Costa
Released: 2014
Country: Portugal

Listen to the playlist inspired by Horse Money below.

I believe that anyone who watched Horse Money will have their own interpretations on what is going on in the film. Even I struggled to understand what the story was about and what the director’s intentions were in the first ten minutes. The dialogue was convoluted (at best) and the editing frequently changes between smooth and jarring. Honestly, I almost reached for the stop button because I began to feel overwhelmed. But I pressed on, gradually enjoying the film’s implicit beauty until the end.

This film tells us the story of Ventura, an immigrant from Cape Verde living in Lisbon, Portugal. My interpretation is that Ventura drifts through the motions triggered by his loneliness, inhabiting himself in a world where the boundaries between reality, imagination and memory become almost non-existent. It is a journey full of mystery and contemplation, perpetuated by anxieties related to mortality, time, and feelings of alienation.

In one scene, Ventura tells the viewer that he is filled with feelings of regret at not really living life to the fullest during his lifetime — which reminds me of a similar point addressed in Akira Kurosawa’s 1952 masterpiece, Ikiru.

You’ll need a lot of patience to enjoy and understand Horse Money. But I assure you, after you get to the end credits, you will understand why Pedro Costa is considered to be an undisputed cinematic genius.


Score: 7/10
Favorite scene: Ventura’s conversation with Vitalina Varela under the dim glow of lights emanating from the windows.
Favorite character: Vitalina Varela. Her frail, wispy way of talking resonated with me throughout the film. I’m guessing Vitalina is also one of Pedro Costa’s favorites, because he would release the full-length feature Vitalina Varela in 2020.
Watch Horse Money if you like: films that show us feelings of loneliness using dreams, reality, imagination and memory, such as Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2010) and of course, other Pedro Costa films.
Highlights: the pitch-black atmospheres that dominate most of Horse Money (and many other Costa films) which helps convey meaningful moments without the need to provide specific contexts on who, what, when, where, why, or how.

About the Author

M. Shahriza Rijadi
An enjoyer of films, books and life. He spends most of his days working as an employee for a private sector company.
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