Tuesday, 26 February 2013

The Man From London [2007]


The moody, fatalistic and noirish crime drama The Man from London can loosely be considered as a companion piece to Damnation, with which the films of Hungarian auteur Béla Tarr had begun adhering to distinctive and formally rigorous aesthetics. Made seven years after the darkly spiritual and apocalyptic Werckmeister Harmonies, the film, which was an adaptation of a 1934 French novel, was about the devastating effects that a crime deal gone awry has on the life of a railway night-watchman (Miroslav Krobot). The stupendously choreographed opening sequence established the film’s theme, setting, narrative springboard and principal protagonist in one long take. The drab and uneventful life of the middle-aged man, who spends lonely nights in his watch-tower suddenly starts bursting when he possession of a bag of cash (which reminded me of No Country for Old Men) after silently witnessing the crime. His behavioral changes upon this serendipitous possession were particularly noteworthy in his interactions with his wife (Tilda Swinton) and his daughter (Erika Bók – anyone who has seen Satantango would instantly recognize her). Meanwhile, an aged and corrupt police inspector from London starts chasing the money, further affecting his stability and conscience. Tarr eschewed conventions of crime thrillers and stripped the plot to its bare essentials in order to paint an allegorical and disconcerting picture of the collapse of social order. Audacious long takes, quasi-static camera movements, chiaroscuro lighting, and a highly effective organ-based score which was alternately melancholic and ominous, were meticulously used to complement the story and accentuate its doom-laden mood and atmosphere. The dubbing, though distracting, can easily be ignored in the general scheme of things.








Director: Bela Tarr
Genre: Drama/Crime Drama/Psychological Drama/Post-Noir
Language: French/English
Country: Hungary

2 comments:

Sam Juliano said...

"Audacious long takes, quasi-static camera movements, chiaroscuro lighting, and a highly effective organ-based score which was alternately melancholic and ominous, were meticulously used to complement the story and accentuate its doom-laden mood and atmosphere."

This is the key assessment that brings this Tarr masterwork into focus. Yes this is a fatalist and noirish work that retains some of Tarr's most favored themes, and while not on par with WERCKMEISTER, SATANTANGO and TURIN HORSE, it's still a ravishing work in a career that sadly may now be complete as per Tarr's announcement. Terrific piece!

Shubhajit said...

Yes, I too wouldn't place it at par with Satantango (undoubtedly Tarr's greatest work), Turin Horse & Werchmeister Harmonies. But, a great work nonetheless - which really shows what a great body of work he has. And yes, I really hope that for all our sake Tarr doesn't stick to his word that he's done with making films :)

Thanks Sam.