7:30 PM, 7th August, 2014
Medieval horse-trader Michael Kohlhaas (Mikkelsen) is on a trip to a nearby fair, when the local baron, at the point of a crossbow, demands two of his horses as ‘security’ for crossing the river that divides one province from the next. Kohlhaas agrees – he has no choice.
When he returns to find his horses broken from ill-use he demands that the baron nurse the animals back to health and return them in perfect condition. He gets no satisfaction from the baron, from local courts or from higher courts. Eventually he leads an armed rebellion – all, it seems, to force the baron to return a pair of horses.
While there’s no doubt he’s in the right, there’s something troubling about the fanatical glint in his eye, and the way he’s deaf to all other moral considerations. He has a son whose fortune and happiness he is ruining. The rebellion and destruction he has let loose is vastly disproportionate to the initial offense. And I can’t help thinking it’s a bit rough on the poor horses, too. (Kohlhaas could get them back sooner if he’d only compromise a little.)
We’re left to our own devices so far as the main character is concerned (we have to decide for ourselves to what extent we’re on his side), but Arnaud des Pallières makes sure we’re drawn into the world of the story: a beautiful setting, kindly on a small scale, but pitiless on a large scale.