Damnation (Bela Tarr, 1987)

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Peter-H
Joined: Fri Jun 04, 2010 5:02 pm

Damnation (Bela Tarr, 1987)

#1 Post by Peter-H » Sun Mar 06, 2011 8:56 pm

After falling in love with Tarr after seeing Werckmeister Harmonies, I decided to see this film. It felt different in some respects to Werckmeister Harmonies. In my opinion it doesn't have the raw emotional impact that that movie does, it doesn't build up to an apocalyptic crescendo, it just ambles long until it tapers off. That's not to say that's a bad thing, the feel of the movie reflects the main characters life. Although it never reaches Hospital scene or opening bar scene heights, there are some beautiful scenes in the film. Just take the scene with the camera slowly panning through the bar, with the singing woman clinging to the mike as if she would fall over and die if she let go. It contrasts beauty in the song with grim reality and hopelessness. It seems to do the same thing in those dancing scenes, showing people listlessly dancing, and showing their worn out sullen faces. It's seems that Tarr is more interested in using people as just another part of the world, not characters. The dogs in the street are as important (or unimportant) as the main character. The people in Damnation don't seem human, they seem like shells of humans, almost as if their souls have been destroyed by their grim reality.

The film didn't seem to have as much to say as Werckmeister, although I still think thee are some themes it explores. It shows man in his primal state (Karrer dancing in the rain), and man constrained by society (the dances in the nightclub). His only connection to society is the girl. When he loses her he reverts completely into an animal like state, barking at the dog then walking into nature. It also seems to show the dehumanizing effect of technology, showing the desolate industrial landscape, and the hopeless lives of those who live there.

I don't think this movie is to be taken literally, rather, it is a reality of the mind. The film's stark and beautiful black and white photography creates a world that seems forever in a mist or rain. It is a place like our own and yet different. People speak in ways that don't seem wholly normal. Verse is quoted and is the bible. No one speaks that way. Musicians play music but how they play doesn't quite match up with the music we hear. The mine carts that we see over head seem to be moving the damned to and from this place and not ore (indeed we never see either end of the line).

Although filled with beautiful moments the film ends up being less then the sum of it's parts IMO, which is why it isn't as good as Weckmeister. That being said I still think it's still a great movie.

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ando
Bringing Out El Duende
Joined: Mon Dec 06, 2004 6:53 pm
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Re: Damnation (Bela Tarr, 1987)

#2 Post by ando » Sat Oct 22, 2011 2:31 am

I'm about to watch this again. It's my favorite Tarr film to watch because I feel I at least have some kind of hold on the main protagonist's sense of the universe and Tarr's overall structure. Karrer, the main character, says early on that "All stories are stories of disintegration. Or else they're of resurrections." Now, seemingly, the path laid before him will either be to disintegrate (which, if you've seen the film, is the one he seems bent on though he refuses to acknowledge it) or resurrect.

The figure that seems to signal the opportunity for redemption (or resurrection) is the sagely cloakroom attendant, played by the unforgettable Hédi Temessy, who quotes Biblical scripture and advises Karrer against the nightclub singer/vixen, with whom he has become obsessed. Perhaps Temessy is too late (and one would think that she'd know better than to council such a man as Karrer) but it seems that she has a thing for him. Of course, if you consider this as the real love triangle in the film (singer-Karrer-old woman) then the crossroads allegory falls apart. But can we really separate or cleanly delineate different forms of love? Can we even say which woman would lead to redemption/resurrection (the agent of ruin seems obvious)? Further, what is there in this man to redeem or resurrect? Temessy seems to see something in Karrer that I certainly don't, but at least I see that she sees. And that's enough light for this undoubtedly dark journey.

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Yojimbo
Joined: Fri Jul 04, 2008 10:06 am
Location: Ireland

Re: Damnation (Bela Tarr, 1987)

#3 Post by Yojimbo » Sat Oct 22, 2011 10:07 am

Peter-H wrote:After falling in love with Tarr after seeing Werckmeister Harmonies, I decided to see this film. It felt different in some respects to Werckmeister Harmonies. In my opinion it doesn't have the raw emotional impact that that movie does, it doesn't build up to an apocalyptic crescendo, it just ambles long until it tapers off. That's not to say that's a bad thing, the feel of the movie reflects the main characters life. Although it never reaches Hospital scene or opening bar scene heights, there are some beautiful scenes in the film. Just take the scene with the camera slowly panning through the bar, with the singing woman clinging to the mike as if she would fall over and die if she let go. It contrasts beauty in the song with grim reality and hopelessness. It seems to do the same thing in those dancing scenes, showing people listlessly dancing, and showing their worn out sullen faces. It's seems that Tarr is more interested in using people as just another part of the world, not characters. The dogs in the street are as important (or unimportant) as the main character. The people in Damnation don't seem human, they seem like shells of humans, almost as if their souls have been destroyed by their grim reality.

The film didn't seem to have as much to say as Werckmeister, although I still think thee are some themes it explores. It shows man in his primal state (Karrer dancing in the rain), and man constrained by society (the dances in the nightclub). His only connection to society is the girl. When he loses her he reverts completely into an animal like state, barking at the dog then walking into nature. It also seems to show the dehumanizing effect of technology, showing the desolate industrial landscape, and the hopeless lives of those who live there.

I don't think this movie is to be taken literally, rather, it is a reality of the mind. The film's stark and beautiful black and white photography creates a world that seems forever in a mist or rain. It is a place like our own and yet different. People speak in ways that don't seem wholly normal. Verse is quoted and is the bible. No one speaks that way. Musicians play music but how they play doesn't quite match up with the music we hear. The mine carts that we see over head seem to be moving the damned to and from this place and not ore (indeed we never see either end of the line).

Although filled with beautiful moments the film ends up being less then the sum of it's parts IMO, which is why it isn't as good as Weckmeister. That being said I still think it's still a great movie.
It deserves to be ranked among the great Film Noir Masterpieces, whatever your interpretation of that genre.
That ending is perfection in itself.
My favourite Tarr film, and thats no faint praise

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hearthesilence
Joined: Fri Mar 04, 2005 4:22 am
Location: NYC

Re: Damnation (Bela Tarr, 1987)

#4 Post by hearthesilence » Fri Feb 03, 2012 12:35 pm

What's the best DVD edition of this? Artificial Eye has a standalone DVD as well as the Tarr box set (same transfer, I presume), and Facets also has its own edition - is there a better option than these?

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aox
Joined: Fri Jun 20, 2008 12:02 pm
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Re: Damnation (Bela Tarr, 1987)

#5 Post by aox » Fri Feb 03, 2012 1:58 pm

I am pretty sure the AE editions of all Tarr's films best Facets' editions.

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perkizitore
Joined: Thu Jul 10, 2008 3:29 pm
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Re: Damnation (Bela Tarr, 1987)

#6 Post by perkizitore » Fri Feb 03, 2012 2:01 pm

If there is an alternative, always go for it, you need to try hard to produce a worse DVD than Facets...

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hearthesilence
Joined: Fri Mar 04, 2005 4:22 am
Location: NYC

Re: Damnation (Bela Tarr, 1987)

#7 Post by hearthesilence » Fri Feb 03, 2012 4:39 pm

Okay, will go for Artificial Eye. Oddly enough, it's cheaper to get the titles within the Bela Tarr Collection separately than to spring for the box set.

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markhax
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Re: Damnation (Bela Tarr, 1987)

#8 Post by markhax » Sat Feb 04, 2012 10:28 am

hearthesilence wrote:What's the best DVD edition of this? Artificial Eye has a standalone DVD as well as the Tarr box set (same transfer, I presume), and Facets also has its own edition - is there a better option than these?
I haven't seen the Facets edition of "Damnation," but for a while I owned both the AE and Facets "Werckmeister Harmonies." The AE is far superior. I have found the AE "Damnation" and "Satantango" to be on the same level.

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skuhn8
wax on; wax off
Joined: Tue Dec 14, 2004 4:46 pm
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Re: Damnation (Bela Tarr, 1987)

#9 Post by skuhn8 » Mon Feb 06, 2012 8:41 am

There are also MOKEP editions here in Hungary of Damnation, Werkmeister, Satantango, and Családi tüzfészek (forget what it's called in English). I can't vouch for how they compare with AE counterpart but am confident they best Facets. There are no special features to speak of BTW, but include English subs.
Can be ordered from http://www.lira.hu/hu/reszletes_kereso? ... 02&x=0&y=0" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; [sorry for lengthy link but Img and URL buttons aren't working]

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MichaelB
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Re: Damnation (Bela Tarr, 1987)

#10 Post by MichaelB » Mon Feb 06, 2012 9:24 am

I get the impression that the Facets and Artificial Eye discs have a common source, but since the common source is a PAL Digibeta, that gives Artificial Eye an instant advantage in terms of both framerate and resolution.

Same goes for the Hungarian edition of Family Nest (Családi tüzfészek) - which looks pretty rough, but there's no PAL-NTSC ghosting to contend with, and I suspect the film looks about as good as it can do on DVD, since it was shot on hand-held 16mm over something like five days - this is a long way from Tarr's mature style!

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goodguy
Joined: Wed Aug 04, 2010 7:25 am

Re: Damnation (Bela Tarr, 1987)

#11 Post by goodguy » Fri Nov 08, 2013 4:56 am

Not sure if anyone is still interested in this, but since I recently got the Hungarian MOKEP DVD of Damnation, here are some specs and screencaps for comparison with the Artificial Eye release.

Aside from the aspect ratio difference, the MOKEP appears significantly darker, in part due to a slightly yellowish tint.

Code: Select all

              MOKEP                   Artificial Eye
Disc          Dual-Layer              Single-Layer
Bitrate       8.78 Mbps               5.50 Mbps
Format        PAL, interlaced         PAL, interlaced
Aspect Ratio  1.66:1                  1.33:1
              non-anamorphic          Fullscreen
Subs & Menus  Hungarian               English
              English
              German
              French
              Spanish
              Dutch
Screencaps for the MOKEP that match this DVDBeaver review of the AE release:
Subtitle sample
http://i171.photobucket.com/albums/u317 ... 9eae3b.jpg
http://i171.photobucket.com/albums/u317 ... c47410.jpg
http://i171.photobucket.com/albums/u317 ... 5ce8d3.jpg
http://i171.photobucket.com/albums/u317 ... 90a562.jpg
http://i171.photobucket.com/albums/u317 ... 2f63e1.jpg
http://i171.photobucket.com/albums/u317 ... 635fdb.jpg
Alternatively, you can browse the Photobucket album.

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