Small Town Anomie and Liquored Exhaustion


Facets continues to slowly make its way through the much vaunted but underdistributed corpus of Hungarian dyspeptic Béla Tarr, one of the planet’s great cinematic formalists and, with Theo Angelopoulos and Aleksandr Sokurov, one of the reigning plan séquence masters. His earlier films, as courageously miserablist as his later ones, are all gritty realism; only with Damnation (1988) did Tarr find the even darker country he’s been exploring since—apocalyptically run-down, dead-or-dying villages on vast Mitteleuropan plains of mud, poverty, crushed will, delusionary behavior, and charcoal skies, all observed by a point of view that stalks silently and patiently through the ruins like a ghost. This small-framed film—modest at least relative to the subsequent epics Satántángó and Werckmeister Harmonies—traces the self-destructive lives of two men and a weary bar singer in a mining town where anomie and liquored exhaustion infect their lives like a virus. Forged with veteran Tarr collaborators László Krasznahorkai (co-writer) and Gábor Medvigy (cinematographer), it’s a serotonin-depleted ordeal, and yet seemingly a sketchbook of vibes and ideas to come, with some of the most magnificent black-and-white images shot anywhere in the world. Comes equipped with an essay-crammed booklet.