Director: Béla Tarr
Year Released: 1994
One of the great pretentious, pessimistic, filthy behemoths of film: a cryptic seven hour descent into mud-caked misery and poverty, filled with extremely long takes that took months to shoot (in fact, the entire movie required several years to make) and demands immense dedication and focus on the viewer. The film actually seems to announce itself as a "Work of Capital-A Art" to be taken with the utmost seriousness and consideration before it even starts: not only has it acquired the admiration (fawning, if you will) of the art-world elite (names not necessary; you know who they are), but its very presentation makes it something to be intimidated by: its length and subject matter keep the casual viewer at bay, its long takes and extended moments of silence challenge even the most alert viewer, its presentation is not straightforward (like a tango, it takes steps forwards and backwards, eschewing chronology for a more 'poetic' approach), it is in black and white as opposed to 'cheery' color, it is largely negative in tone and almost completely without humor (unless like me you find one character's attempt to balance a loaf of bread on his head to be funny). That said, this is the most fully realized of Tarr's films and more of an 'experience' than a simple 'movie': after many hours spent watching people trudge through decaying rooms, sleeping in multiple layers of clothes, living in squalor, there develops this kind of 'fellow-feeling' that simply isn't possible in a 90-minute movie and makes his earlier films look like practice runs. Its sequences and extended takes and moments of dark absurdity are too elaborate and strange to easily forget - if anything, Tarr really wants to burrow into your subconscious and make you question humanity's so-called "progress."