Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Director's Profile: Béla Tarr

By Olivia Maria Hărşan

It was not long ago that I became fascinated by the work of Hungarian filmmaker Béla Tarr after a friend gave me a copy of his seven-hour epic Sátántangó/ Satan's Tango (1994). I have not yet watched this film for two reasons. I prefer to read as much information as I can find on a certain director, screenwriter, cinematographer, actor or movement before watching a film.

The second is that I am still deciding whether to watch the film in one sitting, or several, because like many Eastern European films, the subject matter is confronting and heavy. It consists of long takes detailing a close absorption of the characters; their psyche, appearance and thoughts are dissected and exposed on screen.

Tarr's latest film, A torinói ló/ The Turin Horse (2011), portrays a similar vibe. I actually saw this film last year at the Melbourne Film Festival and, apart from the technical difficulties experienced at the Forum Theatre screening (lights turning on and off constantly... screen turning black... sound being muted) the film was highly impressive. 

Not everyone will enjoy Tarr's style because his films are difficult to absorb, but they are one of a kind and deserve to be appreciated, if not enjoyed. Tarr is a unique auteur and, apart from his critically alleged Tarkovskian influences, his approach belongs to him, and him only. Watching his films is an experience like no other in which the devastation of human existence is slowly dissected.