Béla Tarr

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foggy eyes
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Béla Tarr

#1 Post by foggy eyes » Mon Aug 27, 2007 1:44 pm

Béla Tarr (1955 - )

When we are working we don't talk about any theoretical things. [...]
Mostly we just talk about life. How it's going on the street. We never talk
about Chaos or existential things. We just talk about someone coming
into the room and he wants something and the other guy who is sitting
there doesn't want these things. That's all.


The Turin Horse (2011)

A Londoni férfi / The Man from London (2007)

Visions of Europe (segment: Prologue) (2004) (DVD: included in Facets R1 release of Sátántangó)

Werckmeister harmóniák / Werckmeister Harmonies (2000) (DVD: AE R2 - DVD Beaver)

Utazás az alföldön / Journey on the Plain (1995) (DVD: included in Facets R1 release of Sátántangó)

Sátántangó (1994) (DVD: AE R2 / Facets R1 - DVD Beaver)

City Life (1990)

Utolsó hajó (1990)

Kárhozat / Damnation (1988) (DVD: AE R2 - DVD Beaver)

Öszi almanach / Almanac of Fall (1985) (DVD: Facets R1)

Panelkapcsolat / The Prefab People (1982) (DVD: Facets R1)

Macbeth (TV) (1982) (DVD: included in Facets R1 release of Sátántangó)

Szabadgyalog / The Outsider (1981) (DVD: Facets R1)

Családi tüzfészek / Family Nest (1979) (DVD: Mokep R2 Hungary / Facets R1)

Hotel Magnezit (1978)

Forum Discussions

Sátántangó (Artificial Eye R2 & Facets R1 releases).

Blaq Out R2 release of Werckmeister harmóniák.

Werckmeister harmóniák (second pressing by Artificial Eye).

Béla Tarr in R1.

Web Resources


Interview with Béla Tarr (about Werckmeister Harmonies) by Eric Schlosser (Bright Lights Film Journal, 2000).

In search of truth: Béla Tarr interviewed by Phil Ballard (Kinoeye, 2001).

Out of the Shadows by Jonathan Romney (The Guardian, 2001).

Waiting For The Prince - an interview with Béla Tarr by Fergus Daly and Maximilian Le Cain (Senses of Cinema, 2001).

Béla Tarr and "This Process of Making" by Jay Kuehner (Greencine, 2006).

Interview (about The Man from London) by Fabien Lemercier (Cineuropa, 2007).

Béla Tarr's Man from London by Michael Guillén (Greencine, 2007).

Selected Criticism

The sarcastic laments of Béla Tarr by David Bordwell (Observations on film art and Film Art).

TANGO Marathon by David Bordwell (Observations on film art and Film Art).

A Place in the Pantheon by Jonathan Rosenbaum (The Chicago Reader).

The Melancholy of Resistance: The Films of Béla Tarr by Peter Hames (Kinoeye).

The World According to Béla Tarr by András Bálint Kovács (KinoKultura).

The Camera is a Machine by Gus Van Sant (Gus Van Sant in the light of Béla Tarr by Jenny Jones, Walker Art Center).

The Way that Movements Speak by Daniel Frampton (Film-Philosophy).

Cinema of Damnation: Negative Capabilities in Contemporary Central and Eastern European Film by Tony McKibbin (Senses of Cinema).

Béla Tarr's Slow Burn by Ed Halter (The Village Voice).

Points of No Return: "The Films Of Béla Tarr: Tango, Hungarian Style" by J. Hoberman (The Village Voice).

Béla Tarr's Marathon Masterpiece Casts a Devilish Spell by J. Hoberman (The Village Voice).

Lateral Sculpture: Béla Tarr's Sátántangó by Ryland Walker Knight (The House Next Door).

On DVD: Sátántangó by Michael Atkinson (IFC).

Outside the Whale (Film of the Month: Werckmeister Harmonies) by Jonathan Romney (Sight & Sound).

Hope Deep Within - Béla Tarr's Werckmeister Harmonies by Gabe Klinger (Senses of Cinema).

Preserving Disorder: Werckmeister Harmonies by Fred Camper (The Chicago Reader).

Deep Waters by Richard Williams (The Guardian).

How to Watch Werckmeister Harmonies by Dan North (Spectacular Attractions).

Vancouver Visions by David Bordwell [notes on The Man from London] (Observations on film art and Film Art).

Slowly, Slowly in the Fog to Noir, via Simenon by Nathan Lee (The New York Times).

Print Material

Béla Tarr (Filmunio Hungary, 2001) - includes essays by Gus Van Sant, Jim Jarmusch, Jonathan Rosenbaum, Berenice Reynaud, Jonathan Romney and others.

The Importance of Being Sarcastic by Jonathan Rosenbaum (Chicago Reader, 14 October 1994).

Béla Tarr: Circling the Whale by John Orr (Sight & Sound, April 2001, p.22-24).

End of the Road by Jonathan Romney (Film Comment, September/October 2001, p.55-62).

Sátántangó by András Bálint Kovács in The Cinema Of Central Europe (ed. Peter Hames, Wallflower, 2004, p.237-244).

The More Desperate We Are, The More Hope There Is: Béla Tarr and The Man From London by Robert Chilcott in Vertigo magazine (Autumn/Winter 2007).

Béla Tarr by Jonathan Romney in Exile Cinema (ed. Michael Atkinson, SUNY UP, 2008, p.73-78).

A Human Statement: Béla Tarr on The Man from London by Adam Nayman (Cinema Scope, April 2008).
Last edited by foggy eyes on Thu Jul 31, 2008 9:53 am, edited 3 times in total.

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#2 Post by Matt » Mon Aug 27, 2007 3:34 pm

There is a Bela Tarr retrospective and interview occurring at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis this fall. Unfortunately, the retrospective takes place over several weeks, making it impossible for anyone but locals to attend the whole thing.

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#3 Post by chaddoli » Tue Aug 28, 2007 2:30 pm

Macbeth! Holy shit!

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#4 Post by pauling » Thu Aug 30, 2007 10:58 am

Yeah, and it's free to attend.

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#5 Post by ka mai » Sat Sep 08, 2007 1:02 am

September 16 at Facets in Chicago: Bela Tarr in person, panel discussion including Bordwell and Rosenbaum

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#6 Post by Lemmy Caution » Sun Sep 09, 2007 6:05 am

Just to repeat the above post.
Tarr Chicago appearance set for Facets

Bela Tarr, the legendary Hungarian filmmaker, will make an appearance in Chicago on Sept. 16, stopping off after premiering his latest film at the Toronto Film Festival.

Tarr will appear in person at Facets Multimedia, 1517 W. Fullerton, at 3 p.m., joined in conversation by critics Jonathan Rosenbaum of the Chicago Reader, David Bordwell of the University of Wisconsin and Scott Foundas of the L.A. Weekly and Variety.

At Toronto, he screened "The Man from London," based on a novel by the French crime novelist Georges Simenon about a railway worker who comes upon an enormous amount of cash.

Next Sunday, "Werckmeister Harmonies," today's Great Movie selection by Roger Ebert, will be screened at noon and the appearance will follow.
Ebert also reviewsWerckmeister Harmonies (2000), but doesn't seem to have much to say.

Wish I were back in Chicago.

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#7 Post by miless » Fri Feb 22, 2008 2:39 am

Two brief things here... apparently Fortissimo films has purchased the distribution rights for The Man From London (hopefully this means a limited theatrical run)

and Béla Tarr is (apparently) in production on a new film! (at least according to Film Forum) It's called The Horse of Turin and is, as usual, co-written by Krasnahorkai. The title is apparently a reference to Nietzsche, although the film is not about him, but a farmer and his horse (Béla Tarr does Au Hasard Balthazar?)

EDIT: Perhaps I was too hasty in reporting that Fortissimo Films has purchased the distribution rights for The Man From London... It seems they own International Sales rights... which means they're probably still looking for a distributer. Currently Belgium, The UK, Greece, Japan, Portugal, Hugary, Spain, France and Israel all have distributors... but not the USofA.

I just hope someone picks this up even if just to put it on DVD (I'd even settle for Facets... although I guess maybe Béla Tarr might have possibly burnt whatever bridges he had with them).

oh... and here's a trailer for The Man From London

The LA area is getting a(n almost full) retrospective.

anyone interested in seeing Tarr's brilliant prologue to the film "Visions of Europe" can find it here: http://youtube.com/watch?v=Z_mz39I88x4
This may well be my favorite short film I've ever seen.

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#8 Post by Morbii » Mon Jul 28, 2008 11:08 pm

What's a good starting point for Tarr? I actually already jumped the gun and purchased Damnation because the cover art just looked extremely enticing (should arrive tomorrow). However, assuming I do (or don't) like Damnation, which of his films would be good to visit after?

To add another piece of info that might help answer this question: I've heard him favorably compared to Tarkovsky (big plus to me) and my favorite Tarkovsky is Stalker.

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#9 Post by Cold Bishop » Mon Jul 28, 2008 11:10 pm

You should have bought the AE Damnation/Werckmeister Harmonies (the latter being his best, IMO) two-setter. Cancel and switch if you still have the chance.

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#10 Post by Morbii » Mon Jul 28, 2008 11:25 pm

Heh, it appears that the AE twofer is less than the Kino "singlefer". How do they compare in A/V quality, does anyone know (the beaver page seems to only compare the AE with the AE re-release)? I suppose I could always just send the thing back and purchase the AE version, but if the Kino actually looks better I'd prefer to just stick with it probably (then there's always the fact that I prefer to have an R1 disc just because the player availability is higher here in the states, even though I do have an Oppo).

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#11 Post by Cold Bishop » Mon Jul 28, 2008 11:36 pm

It's Facets, not Kino, and while I don't recall seeing screencaps for Damnation, their Werckmeister, released around the same time, was a disaster compared to the AE.

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#12 Post by Hopscotch » Tue Jul 29, 2008 12:20 am

Morbii wrote: To add another piece of info that might help answer this question: I've heard him favorably compared to Tarkovsky (big plus to me) and my favorite Tarkovsky is Stalker.
Anyone else think this comparison is stretched a little too far? I've only seen Satantango, so I can't say how Tarr's other films validate/invalidate the analogy, but as far as Satantango goes, all I really feel is similar is the attempt to create a (very leisurely) kind of "cinematic time." But in terms of what their mise en scene reveals about their respective philosophies/worldviews, I think Tarkovsky often tries to create a sense of awe in the viewer at what's depicted on screen, whereas Tarr seems to deliberately overdose on the ordinary.

But hey, if Stalker is your favorite Tarkovsky, you shouldn't have any trouble getting absorbed in Tarr's work.

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#13 Post by wpqx » Tue Jul 29, 2008 12:37 am

Any European director who uses long takes inevitably gets compared to Tarkovsky because apparently he invented the universe and was the only original director ever so I've gotten used to everyone being compared to him. From what I've read though Tarr's style probably more closely resembles Sharunas Bartas (a director I'm shamefully ignorant so can't validate these claims).

Damnation seems a good point to start with Tarr. I think I began with Almanac of Fall/Autumn Almanac and it wasn't quite what I expected. Since most of the writing on Tarr is on his films Damnation-onward then that's clearly a good point to start.

Due to a massive hangover I missed The Man From London at the CIFF and here I am 9 months later still waiting for a distributor here in the US.

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#14 Post by Morbii » Tue Jul 29, 2008 12:42 am

Cold Bishop wrote:It's Facets, not Kino, and while I don't recall seeing screencaps for Damnation, their Werckmeister, released around the same time, was a disaster compared to the AE.
Not sure why I said Kino, must have it on the mind for some reason. Perhaps I should return it if I can... We'll see.

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#15 Post by MichaelB » Wed Jul 30, 2008 5:11 am

wpqx wrote:I think I began with Almanac of Fall/Autumn Almanac and it wasn't quite what I expected.
You'd never guess the director of Family Nest if you hadn't been tipped off in advance - to my eyes, it looks like the kind of things Ken Loach used to make for the BBC in the 1960s, right down to the hand-held, ultra-grainy black and white 16mm.

I bought the Hungarian DVD on a trip to Budapest last year - as far as I can make out, it's from the same telecine source as the Facets disc, but it's native PAL and with a much higher bitrate, so they've clearly tried to wring as much out of some pretty dire source materials as possible. (The film was shot in something like five days with leftover film stock by an inexperienced crew on a budget of practically nothing, with all that that implies!)

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foggy eyes
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Re: Béla Tarr

#16 Post by foggy eyes » Thu Jul 31, 2008 9:46 am

I've updated the first post with some more links and information, specifically:
Béla Tarr and "This Process of Making" by Jay Kuehner at Greencine (2006).

Béla Tarr's Man from London by Michael Guillén at Greencine (2007).

The sarcastic laments of Béla Tarr by David Bordwell.

The World According to Béla Tarr by András Bálint Kovács at KinoKultura.

Print Material
Sátántangó by András Bálint Kovács in The Cinema Of Central Europe (ed. Peter Hames, Wallflower, 2004, p.237-244).

The More Desperate We Are, The More Hope There Is: Béla Tarr and The Man From London by Robert Chilcott in Vertigo magazine (Autumn/Winter 2007).

Béla Tarr by Jonathan Romney in Exile Cinema (ed. Michael Atkinson, SUNY UP, 2008, p.73-78).
I think Rosenbaum's The Importance of Being Sarcastic (Chicago Reader, 14 October 1994) has been re-published on his blog, but I can't get it to load at the moment. Here's the full text anyway:
The Importance of Being Sarcastic

Jonathan Rosenbaum October 14, 1994

**** Sátántangó

Directed by Bela Tarr. Written by Tarr and Laszlo Krasznahorkai. With Mihaly Vig, Putyi Horvath, Erika Bok, Peter Berling, Miklos B. Szekely, Laszlo Fe Lugossy, Eva Almasi Albert, Alfred Jaray, Erzsebet Gaal, Janos Derzsi, and Iren Szajki.

If great films invent their own rules, reinventing some of the standards of film criticism in the process, Bela Tarr's Satantango surely belongs in their company. Showing Sunday as part of the Chicago Film Festival, this very dark Hungarian black comedy has more than a few tricks and paradoxes up its sleeve. Shot in black and white, with a running time of just under seven hours (it's designed to be shown with two short intermissions), it boasts a decrepit, squalid rural setting enveloped in constant rain and mud and a cast of about a dozen greedy, small-minded characters, none of whom has any remotely redeeming qualities. Yet over two separate viewings it has provided me with more pleasure, excitement, and even hope than any other new picture I've seen this year.

I'm not the only one who feels this way. Since the film surfaced at the Berlin Film Festival in February and was enthusiastically heralded by J. Hoberman in the Village Voice, it has enjoyed successful runs in Hungary and Germany. (In Budapest, Tarr told me, some viewers were willing to stand for the whole seven hours.) It has already acquired distributors in Holland, Italy, and Switzerland, and tickets for the single screening at the New York Film Festival were sold out even before the ad appeared in the New York Times, at which point about 200 more orders came in.

On the other hand, at the second of two screenings held at the Toronto Film Festival last month, there were only a handful of people, though nearly all of them stayed to the end. Many of my colleagues writing for national publications admitted that they would rather risk seeing three or four bad films in a row than take a chance on this one. I suspect that part of what put them off is the chance they might really like it--which would interfere with their usual line of work. The very notion of a seven-hour masterpiece challenges the way the film business operates, especially in a climate where the value of a movie is largely gauged by the big-studio cash poured into its promotion. Satantango was shot over two years--120 shooting days in all--at a cost of a little over a million and a half dollars, or roughly one-twelfth the cost of a "low-budget" Hollywood picture like Ed Wood. And we all know that, regardless of how good or important it is, its chances of being recognized in the national media are nonexistent.

Sarcastic to the core, this movie demands to be read as a kind of interim report on where humanity seems to be lodged--in a quagmire of cowardice, betrayal, self-delusion, alcoholism, and deceit, a place where people snoop on their neighbors and strive to cheat them behind their backs and where bureaucracy has become so encrusted in its own self-serving operations that buzzwords like communism, capitalism, and even Christianity have become meaningless, interchangeable labels for whatever grubby social and economic interactions happen to take place.

Yet I think it would be wrong to call this adaptation by Tarr and Laszlo Krasznahorkai, who wrote the celebrated 1985 Hungarian novel of the same title, misanthropic, at least in the sense that, say, Stanley Kubrick's movies are. Like Luis Bunuel and perhaps the painter Pieter Brueghel, Tarr and Krasznahorkai have a view of abject, self-absorbed peasants that is too passionate and too richly human to be adequately described as cynical or antisocial. When a bunch of their characters are seen elaborately dismantling a large cabinet outdoors while preparing to move from a depleted farm to an abandoned manor house nearby, the revelation that they're carrying this out to prevent "the Gypsies" from taking this useless piece of furniture is quintessentially Bunuelian in its comic--and cosmic--futility.

So far I could almost be describing a painting. But even though the action of Satantango covers only two consecutive fall days, followed by a couple of mordant epilogues occurring later the same month, this is a narrative constantly in motion--at least in the way we experience it--thanks to Tarr's elaborately choreographed camera style and respect for duration. Filmed in extremely long takes, the movie makes us share a lot of time as well as space with its characters, and the overall effect is to give a moral weight as well as a narrative weight to every shot: as detestable as these people are, we're so fully with them for such extended stretches that we can't help but feel deeply involved, even implicated in their various maneuvers. (If memory serves, this is somewhat less true of Tarr's two impressive previous features, Almanac of Fall--which Facets Multimedia recently brought out on video--and Damnation, in which Tarr's mobile long-take style is less tied to the movements of the characters.)

When these grubby characters are indoors and relatively stationary, the camera tends to weave intricate arabesques around them, all but spelling out the allegorical spiderweb that the offscreen narrator evokes when describing the ties between these people. When they're outside and walking--most often in the rain, and without umbrellas--the camera is generally content just to follow or precede them across endless distances. (A master illusionist in more ways than one, Tarr told me in Toronto that all the rain in the film comes from a rain machine; real rain, he noted, isn't adequately photogenic.) Either way, the unbroken flow of the story telling and our moral implication in the events are both essential consequences of the camera style, and conversely the formal beauty of that style is never less than functional to the film's narrative and morality.

Unlike the postmodernist Hollywood specials currently commanding the attention of critics as models of art for grown-ups--adolescent, instantly gratifying compendiums like Forrest Gump, Natural Born Killers, Pulp Fiction, and Ed Wood, whose "eternal truths" (i.e., comforting lies) have everything to do with TV shows and other movies and nothing to do with lived experience--Satantango is a movie calculated to hit you where you live, and to change how you think and feel about it. If all your life has been spent in front of television and movie screens, the movie may not register, because this is one of those rare films that address not "the media" but everything the media leave out. (Significantly, only two TV sets figure here: one is on the blink, and the other never gets plugged in.) One lengthy sequence of horrifying but bloodless violence involving a little girl and a cat--fashioned with such cunning that many viewers accept it as real rather than fabricated--has infinitely more impact than all the combined vats of red paint splattered about by Stone, Tarantino & Company and tells us far more about the world we're living in.

Nevertheless, the way this film interfaces allegory with realistic detail may distract us from the fact that its universe is brilliantly constructed, not merely discovered. Despite the apparent homogeneity of the godforsaken setting, the carefully selected locations are in ten separate parts of Hungary. (According to Tarr, the most "Hungarian" aspects of the film are its landscapes and its humor.) Similarly, the remarkable sound track, which has a tactile physicality and density, was created rather than found: practically all of the film was shot silent, and the dialogue and sound effects were added later. If the long takes, like the landscapes and the sound track, correctly convey the impression that Tarr is a materialist filmmaker, paradoxically his materialism is arrived at through methods that in some ways are the reverse of those of Jean-Marie Straub and Daniele Huillet, who tend to regard directly recorded sound as a kind of moral necessity.

Tarr told me that Krasznahorkai's long novel, which hasn't yet been published in English, consists mostly of internal monologues by various characters, each one structured in alternating clusters of six paragraphs, corresponding to the 12 steps of the tango: 6 steps forward, 6 steps back. Apparently a close adaptation, the film is split into 12 titled sections, and some of the titles are matching pairs: "Perspective From the Front" and "Perspective From the Rear," for example, and "The Spider's Work" and "The Spider's Work II." The first six sections carry us through portions of the same day several times, from the vantage points of several characters; the next four give us the second day from only two perspectives. All 12 sections end powerfully with offscreen third-person narration--eloquent, poetic commentary on the characters and their world that I assume comes directly from the novel.

When I asked Tarr about what literary tradition the novel belongs to, he cited the contemporary Austrian novelist Thomas Bernhard and, before him, Franz Kafka. The one Bernhard novel I've read reminded me of Samuel Beckett, and perhaps by default I'm inclined to view this novel's tradition in Anglo-American terms. Beckett is powerfully evoked in the film's third section--a mesmerizing tour de force charting for a full hour the chiefly solitary movements of an aging doctor lost in an alcoholic haze--and the overall narrative construction suggests Joseph Conrad and William Faulkner.

I'm thinking here not only of Conrad's Nostromo, which concentrates on the events of a single day seen through multiple viewpoints, but even more of Faulkner's similarly structured Light in August, as well as such experiments in internal monologue as The Sound and the Fury and As I Lay Dying. Indeed, the doctor in the film recalls the Reverend Gail Hightower in Light in August, a fallen patriarch who might have served as his community's conscience if he and the community hadn't both deteriorated into an apocalyptic, postmoral stupor.

Though Krasznahorkai's novel was written when "communism" (that is, what we and the Hungarians were erroneously calling communism) was still in power, and the movie was made after this apparatus came apart, tellingly the society depicted in the film could belong to either era. Similarly, though both the settings and the camera style suggest a despiritualized Andrei Tarkovsky, the film contains elements of Christian allegory, not only in the demonology of the title but also in the messianic qualities of a key character, Irimias (played by the film's composer, Mihaly Vig). Ultimately, whether this highly suggestive story is described as Christian, antitotalitarian, communist, precommunist, postcommunist, or some combination of the above is entirely a function of how we wish to apply its lessons, because its vision is broad enough to encompass all of these points of view.

I've avoided telling the plot because one of the film's central pleasures is the clever, carefully calculated unfolding of the story. But however fuzzy a few of the narrative details may be--an obscurity perhaps attributable to the allegorical context or to the occasionally awkward English subtitles--the story's main lines and its meaning are unmistakable. And its liberating gallows humor is like a tonic after the easy lies of other movies, a slap that returns us to our senses.
And here's the recent interview from Vertigo magazine (UK), which is only accessible online if you are a subscriber:
The More Desperate We Are, The More Hope There Is: Bela Tarr and The Man From London

By Robert Chilcott

Despite originally wanting to study philosophy, Hungarian film-maker Bela Tarr has always denied the use of symbols, allegories or metaphysics in his filmmaking, stating that cinema is something definite and that the lens only records real things that are there. He is also quick to refute critical wisdom that he made a formal u-turn, à la Lars Von Trier, midway through his career, denying any radical change in his practice. Ultimately however, the mise-en-scene of Damnation (1988), Satantango (1994) and works beyond does nonetheless transcend the samizdat vérité of his early ‘Budapest School’ trilogy, while his choreographed tracking shots and languorous takes cannot help but suggest intimations of the divine, or perhaps of a celestial nightmare, one’s hunched shoulders shuffling endlessly between a Godless heaven and an earthly hell. His latest work, an adaptation of the novel by Georges Simenon, and his first to be made outside Hungary, takes this vision of things further perhaps than before.

Robert Chilcott: You say that The Man From London (2007) is a less romantic film than Werckmeister Harmonies (2000), that it was simpler, harder and wiser and “still likes people”.

Bela Tarr: We still like people. It perhaps is a more bitter film. Perhaps a film in a worse mood. But nevertheless we still have a lot to do with people, with human beings, and we will never lose it to the extent of hating people. We will never become misanthropists. But it is still a true depiction of ourselves.

RC: After your first three films you shifted in style, quite drastically, from the social realist aesthetic to a much more studied and composed form. Do you see this as a conscious change or transition?

BT: This is the theory of Jonathan Rosenbaum (leading US critic. Ed.)! I must say it’s not true. If you watch the first movie, which I made 30 years ago, you can see very clearly long monologues, long psychological processes… This is a process. Every movie has its different expression, different artistic problems. That’s why I don’t feel this is the right theory. Jonathan has a list – I am two, one is there, and afterwards I am born again! Which is definitely not true. I am the same person and I am doing things my way. You have to watch two important movies – one is my Macbeth (1982), which was a 62-minute-long take for Hungarian TV, and afterwards came Almanac of the Fall (1985). If you do not speak of these two movies, then you can believe there is a change. But otherwise you can see very clearly the one continuity.

RC: Therefore would you draw parallels between the hero of The Man From London and the characters in Family Nest (1979) or The Outsider (1981). Are they on the same journey?

BT: When I say that I make the same movie all the time, what I am really talking about is that it’s the very same thing I find exciting and stimulating from the beginning, which is the question of the situation of human dignity. It’s a fragile thing, which is permanently exposed to great danger. And what has always concerned me is the fact that the majority of people don’t actually realise their potential in their life. Every person always takes something to the grave with them, something which they haven’t realised or been able to carry out. This is such an injustice in life, apart from the injustice of ending up in the grave. Not only do we have to get there but if we get there with the full baggage, a baggage full of unrealised potential, that is something that has always bothered me. This is always how I experience drama, there is a tension between the human being and the world. And somehow in all of my films this comes to the surface somewhere. And the other question which is always in my films is the loneliness and solitude of human beings. This doesn’t get sorted out in people’s lives either. Obviously this is the same problem we are talking about that comes up in my films – it takes a different shape, a different form, it is acted out through different characters, but it is essentially what I’m talking about.

RC: And does the interest in outsiders stem from being in the position of a filmmaker as an outsider – filmmaking is often quite a lonely place...

BT: It is very true that the kind of films we make are different from the mainstream, and we don’t really have very much to do with the film industry as such. I couldn’t say I feel particularly lonely, as there are lots of filmmakers in the world with whom I feel a commonality. But we are all outsiders as filmmakers if we don’t accept the artistic order.

RC: The Man From London has several genre devices – mysterious strangers walking through shadows, a case full of stolen money - yet the eventual execution of the film defies and/or transcends any notions of genre, becoming something more indescribable. Are you interested in being faithful to an idea of the film noir genre, or is it merely incidental, and do you feel you have to ‘ruin’ a novel to make an interesting film out of it?

BT: The film noir actually is very close to this situation – shooting in a port, everything lends itself very well to that kind of style. It’s not the film noir style we use – it looks like that. It is film noir à la Tarr! If you like, you could even brand Fassbinder as a film noir director, even though he works with colours. Another important ingredient of film noir is of course sin, it’s there in the stratosphere. It’s the same if I have various vegetables at home and I mix them up: I call it a ratatouille.

RC: You have said that film is not about telling a story. This is antithetical to the dominant industrial film development process, particularly with its reverence to Robert McKee. How do you deal with this, when faced with a film industry and finance obsessed with story?

BT: If you want to look at it this way, everything has a story. But what is important is what you concentrate on. It’s the circumstances that have excitement. What’s exciting is what compels or inspires someone to do something, and how their own personality reacts to that. So if we take this film as an example, okay this film is about a suitcase with £60,000 in it on the table, but this is not what concerns us, what is on the table, but what is under the table – Maloin, his wife, his daughter, Brown – it’s the human relationships that concern the film, and the moment where Maloin realises it’s his big chance in life, that his daughter’s life can change, and his own.... That is really the stuff, what’s under the table, not what’s on top. We don’t see this money more than twice in the film anyway.

RC: Do you work with a final script, or with an outline and notes. How structured is it?

BT: It is extremely structured, because everything costs money. I don’t have much chance for improvisation anymore. What we have decided on is really what we have to go out and shoot. But normally I would like to work in such a way as I have done for 30 years. I create little cards for each scene, then I place these cards on the wall for myself, and I see the structure of the film straight away. And I also see the proportions. And I inform the crew, based on what I see. The shooting plan is prepared from that, so we don’t actually work from a script as such.

RC: What about your working relationship with Fred Kelemen (who shot the film)?

BT: We’ve known each other since 1990. He was a pupil of mine in Berlin. We made a 30 -minute film together for Hungarian television. So this wasn’t our first adventure together. He’s a good friend who understands what I have to do. And can do it. It’s very important that we speak the same language. He doesn’t speak Hungarian but we converse in German and English. Even though his mother was Hungarian, he is too lazy to learn! But it works.

RC: You choose actors because of their personalities first, and don’t treat them as actors. You want them to become your friends and give their personalities to the film. Does this always work?

BT: : It’s the only thing that works. I’m simply unable to use an autocracy, it’s not in me. It is like, if I put a rope between two houses and I tell my actor to walk that rope, and I say to him, “do not fear, if you fall I will be there to catch you myself.”“This is what a director’s and an actor’s relationship should be like. The actor must believe the director when he says, “I’m going to be there to catch you.” Because what I am asking him to do is even more hairy than walking a tightrope, I’m asking him to bare his soul and open up his personality. And what he must know in return is that I’m never going to abuse that. And he must know that I am never going to do anything immoral, and I’m never going to subordinate that. This is what I mean by the relationship of confidence, and if it works then everything else works.

RC: You once said that “the more desperate we are, the more hope there is.”

BT: That’s the truth. I can’t say any more than that.

The Man From London will be released in the UK by Artificial Eye in early 2008. The company also releases Tarr’s Damnation, Satantango and Werckmeister Harmonies on dvd.

Robert Chilcott is a London-based writer and film-maker. He currently edits Vertigo’s monthly On-line magazine
Any further additions would be greatly appreciated.

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#17 Post by miless » Thu Jul 31, 2008 2:56 pm

thanks so much for posting these. I had no idea that Sátántangó cost all of $1.5 million... that's just stupefying (especially for a 120 day shoot).

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#18 Post by shirobamba » Fri Aug 15, 2008 1:34 pm

László Krasznahorkai's website with lots of informations and texts (some in English) about his work.

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#19 Post by foggy eyes » Fri Aug 29, 2008 7:30 am

shirobamba wrote:László Krasznahorkai's website with lots of informations and texts (some in English) about his work.
Thanks for the link. Rosenbaum recently reported that Sátántangó is on the way from New Directions, and it will be translated by George Szirtes (who also worked on The Melancholy of Resistance).

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#20 Post by Fierias » Tue Oct 28, 2008 3:08 pm

Werc Werk Works aboard Tarr film
Company to finance, co-produce 'The Turin Horse'

By Steven Zeitchik

Oct 27, 2008, 11:01 PM ET
The unusually named Werc Werk Works, an indie production company that is behind Todd Solondz's new untitled project, has signed on for a new international co-production.

Werc Werk Works will finance and co-produce "The Turin Horse," a new movie from Hungarian filmmaker Bela Tarr that will use the story of a farmer and his horse as an existential metaphor.

A host of European production banners will join Werc in producing the picture.

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Re: Béla Tarr

#21 Post by MichaelB » Sun Nov 09, 2008 7:29 pm

I've just watched The Man From London twice, the first time in the Hungarian version that played festivals last year, and just now in the French/English version that's going to be playing theatrically in London.

As with The Leopard, it's impossible to say which version is definitive, as they both have advantages and severe drawbacks - though Tarr himself seems to prefer the French/English one. Certainly, this is truer to the setting (coastal France, with a mixture of French and English characters), and certain parts of the film only truly make sense with a bilingual soundtrack. For instance, it's now clear that the protagonist Maloin simply doesn't understand much of what's going on, as virtually all the conversations he overhears (between Brown and Teddy at the start, between Inspector Morrison and first Brown, then Mrs Brown) are in English, which he presumably doesn't speak - or at least there's no indication of this at any point, and Morrison makes a point of speaking French when he's directly addressing Maloin.

On the other hand, though, the lip-synch is far less accurate in this version, and while the Hungarian version is equally clearly dubbed (given the extreme complexity of the camera choreography, I imagine Tarr, like Jancsó before him, shoots MOS out of necessity), it feels much more convincing. István Lénárt, as Morrison, is the chief victim here - while I think Edward Fox does a perfectly good vocal job of conveying his gravelly tones, his sentences are unconvincingly. Split up in. Order to fit the lip movements slightly more effectively. (He's the only character with a significant amount of onscreen dialogue where the camera is fixed on his face - Maloin nearly always has his back to the camera when speaking).

Conversely, while the Hungarian version rings truer in terms of both the nationality of much of the supporting cast and continuity with Tarr's previous work, it's less convincing in this particular context - and by making everyone speak Hungarian, the sense of distance that I'm sure Tarr meant to create between Maloin and the murder mystery that's being played out in front of his supposedly uncomprehending eyes is much less effective.

Oh, and Tilda Swinton is clearly dubbed in both versions, and the lip-sync is miles out regardless. That said, this is somewhat less jarring than it is with Lénárt as there's usually something else happening in the frame (for instance, the argument between Maloin and his wife has them shouting on either side of their daughter, and Erika Bók's inscrutable expression rivets the attention to the point where the poor-to-nonexistent lipsynch on either side of her doesn't really matter).

I don't yet know whether the DVD will contain both versions, but I'll ask Artificial Eye next time I'm in contact with them - there's certainly a strong case for doing so.

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Re: Béla Tarr

#22 Post by denti alligator » Sun Nov 09, 2008 7:47 pm

How do you feel about the film itself, Michael? (especially compared to Tarr's other work)

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Re: Béla Tarr

#23 Post by MichaelB » Sun Nov 09, 2008 7:55 pm

denti alligator wrote:How do you feel about the film itself, Michael? (especially compared to Tarr's other work)
Broadly on a par with Damnation (which it most closely resembles), a definite step back from Sátántangó and Werckmeister Harmonies, though as there's no-one else in cinema quite like him even a relatively minor Tarr is clearly still unmissable by definition. And it certainly wasn't at all a chore to have to watch it twice in the space of a few days - Artificial Eye sent me a Hungarian screener by mistake first time round!

I'll be going into (much) more detail in my upcoming Sight & Sound review, once I've finished writing it.

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Re: Béla Tarr

#24 Post by colinr0380 » Sun Nov 09, 2008 8:45 pm

It sounds very interesting - I suppose if the dubbing is on a par with, say, a kung fu film or a Fellini I'll be fine! :wink:

From your comments it would seem to make sense for the film to be released in both versions, if only for comparison sake.

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Re: Béla Tarr

#25 Post by MichaelB » Mon Nov 10, 2008 8:38 am

colinr0380 wrote:It sounds very interesting - I suppose if the dubbing is on a par with, say, a kung fu film or a Fellini I'll be fine! :wink:
It's better than those - Edward Fox in particular has made a real effort to lipsync with his onscreen character, though this does lead to the above-mentioned weird pauses.

And, to be fair, it's not remotely unusual for Tarr - if I remember rightly, both Lars Rudolph and Hanna Schygulla were pretty obviously post-synched in Werckmeister Harmonies. It's just when his characters are dubbed into English that it feels jarring, possibly because there aren't any subtitles so you're stuck with looking at the words and lip movements not quite matching up.

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