Critical responseThe Turin Horse has received critical acclaim. At Metacritic, the film received an average score of 80/100, based on 14 reviews, which indicates "generally favorable reviews".
Mark Jenkins of NPR described the film as "... an absolute vision, masterly and enveloping in a way that less personal, more conventional movies are not." A. O. Scott of The New York Times lavished the film with praise, concluding, "The rigors of life can grind you down. The rigor of art can have the opposite effect, and The Turin Horse is an example — an exceedingly rare one in contemporary cinema — of how a work that seems built on the denial of pleasure can, through formal discipline, passionate integrity and terrifying seriousness, produce an experience of exaltation. The movie is too beautiful to be described as an ordeal, but it is sufficiently intense and unyielding that when it is over, you may feel, along with awe, a measure of relief. Which may sound like a reason to stay away, but is exactly the opposite."
Ray Bennett of The Hollywood Reporter wrote from the Berlinale: "Fans of Tarr’s somber and sedate films will know what they are in for and will no doubt find the time well spent. Others might soon grow weary of measured pace of the characters as they dress in their ragged clothes, eat boiled potatoes with their fingers, fetch water, clean their bowls, chop wood and feed the horse." Bennett complimented the cinematography, but added: "That does not, however, make up for the almost complete lack of information about the two characters, and so it is easy to become indifferent to their fate, whatever it is." Variety's Peter Debruge also noted how the narrative provided "little to cling to", but wrote: "Like Hiroshi Teshigahara's life-changingly profound The Woman in the Dunes ... by way of Bresson, Tarr's tale seems to depict the meaning of life in a microcosm, though its intentions are far more oblique. ... As the premise itself concerns the many stories not being told (Nietzsche is nowhere to be found, for instance), it's impossible to keep the mind from drifting to all the other narratives unfolding beyond the film's sparse horizon."