"In Turin on 3rd January, 1889, Friedrich Nietzsche steps out of the doorway of number six, Via Carlo Alberto. Not far from him, the driver of a hansom cab is having trouble with a stubborn horse. Despite all his urging, the horse refuses to move, whereupon the driver loses his patience and takes his whip to it. Nietzsche comes up to the throng and puts an end to the brutal scene, throwing his arms around the horse’s neck, sobbing. His landlord takes him home, he lies motionless and silent for two days on a divan until he mutters the obligatory last words, 'Mutter, ich bin dumm!' ['Mother, I am stupid!' in German] and lives for another ten years, silent and demented, cared for by his mother and sisters. We do not know what happened to the horse."
These are Béla Tarr’s introductory words at the beginning of his film, which picks up the narrative immediately after these events, and is a meticulous description of the life of the driver of the hansom cab, his daughter and the horse. The film depicts how the driver, his daughter, and the horse live in an unknown area, seemingly isolated from other people. The pair's daily routine is established as the film progresses, using white text on a black screen as a transition for each day. The two encounter problems and are shown trying to leave, though the camera does not follow them as they go, but are shown coming back for unknown reasons. The pair are shown trying to complete their daily routine, but are unable to, and clearly distraught. Eventually even the lights go out in the house and the screen fades to black, leaving the fate of the two undetermined.