“One of the most innovative and accomplished auteurs working in international filmmaking today.” —Jytte Jenson, Museum of Modern Art
From September 14–October 21, the Walker Art Center presents the
Regis Dialogue and Retrospective Béla Tarr: Mysterious Harmonies
, featuring all of the acclaimed director’s feature films, as well as a Regis Dialogue with Tarr and film critic Howard Feinstein (September 14, 8 pm). Films in the series are Family Nest (Családi tűzfészek) (September 21, 7:30 pm); The Outsider (Szabadgyalog) (September 22, 7:30 pm); The Prefab People (Panelkapcsolat) (September 28, 7:30 pm); Almanac of Fall (Őszi almanac) (September 29, 7:30 pm); Damnation (Kárhozat) (Friday, October 5, 7:30 pm); Werckmeister Harmonies (Werckmeister harmóniák) (October 6, 7:30 pm; repeat screening on October 12, 7:30 pm); a Target Free Thursday Nights screening of Macbeth (October 11, 7:30 pm); Satantango (Sátántangó) (October 13, 1 pm); and the regional premiere of The Man from London (A Londoni férfi) (October 20, 7:30 pm; repeat screening on October 21, 2 pm). These films, with their hauntingly beautiful scores and landscapes and rich psychological inquiries, are best experienced on the cinema screen. This glimpse into the world of Béla Tarr—via a rare and complete 35mm feature film retrospective—promises a journey that follows the rhythms of life with, according to filmmaker Gus Van Sant, “one of the few genuinely visionary filmmakers.”
The mesmerizing work of Hungarian filmmaker Béla Tarr, widely considered to be one of the most important auteurs in world cinema, is primarily known to American audiences only through film festivals. His lens captures a Hungary informed by its varied history—from its longstanding empire to the postwar Soviet invasion, from its disheartening years under Communism to its contemporary attempt at privatization. Tarr’s films provocatively examine current alienation and morality, with sublime cinematography and exquisitely languid pacing. Drawing his influences from Italian Neorealism and the French New Wave, he has in turn greatly influenced a younger generation of filmmakers such as Gus Van Sant and Jim Jarmusch.
There is a clear division between Tarr’s earlier and more recent work. He made his first feature, Family Nest (1979), at age 22. Like successors The Outsider (1981) and The Prefab People (1982), the film was created in a cinema verité style, with an aesthetic of non-actors in actual locations. These films center on the working class and explore such issues as the 1970s Budapest housing shortage from a familial perspective. Shot mainly in close-ups, the films from Tarr’s early years capture a feeling of claustrophobia; the characters’ lives are closing in on them at a rapid pace.
Tarr’s fourth feature, Almanac of Fall (1985), marks a transition. While also tackling social issues, its stylized color, lighting, and camera work demonstrate a shift away from the documentary style and a growing interest in form. His partner, editor, and sometimes co-director, Ágnes Hranitzky, admits that after the first three films, “We wanted to do more poetic things.” Tarr adds, “In the beginning, we were just talking about social conflicts, and then we were opening, opening, opening. Now we had to show the landscape and the time.” This radical shift in the balance between content and style yielded films that are “specifically (and exquisitely) cinematic, revealing Tarr to be a master stylist,” as Chicago Reader critic Jonathan Rosenbaum once put it.
The films in this second stage of Tarr’s career—Damnation (1988) Satantango (1994), and Werckmeister Harmonies (2000), all collaborations with writer László Krasznahorkai—make for an exhilarating cinematic experience. They are atmospherically charged, fueled by vast wasteland landscapes filmed in long takes. Tarr’s gorgeously choreographed shots inevitably draw you in, making you complicit in the moral complexity on screen. As New York Times critic Manohla Dargis said, “There are moments when watching one of Mr. Tarr’s films that it seems as if he doesn’t just want you to look at his images, but to somehow enter into them alongside the characters.”
All films are written and directed by Béla Tarr, in Hungarian with English subtitles, and screened in the Cinema. Unless otherwise noted, tickets to each film are $8 ($6 Walker members) and are available at walkerart.org/tickets or by calling 612.375.7600.
Receive five tickets for the price of three: $24 ($18 Walker members)
This program is made possible by generous support from Regis Foundation.
BÉLA TARR: MYSTERIOUS HARMONIES
A REGIS DIALOGUE AND RETROSPECTIVE
September 14–October 21
Friday, September 14
Regis Dialogue with Béla Tarr and Howard Feinstein, 8 pm
$22 ($18 Walker members)
Tarr and film critic Howard Feinstein will discuss his innovative filmography, punctuated by clips from his films. Feinstein has written on film for such publications as the Guardian (U.K.), Vanity Fair, Sight and Sound, Filmmaker, and Premiere. Since 1999, he has been a selector for the Sarajevo Film Festival.
Friday, September 21
Family Nest (Családi tűzfészek), 7:30 pm
Tensions mount as Laci and his wife, Iren, thwarted in their efforts to find an apartment of their own during Hungary’s housing crisis in the 1970s, are stuck in his parents’ cramped one-room apartment. A microcosm of the Communist government’s influence in Tarr’s native country, the film vividly exposes the frustrations of the Hungarian people through a variety of styles, from Altmanesque overlapping conversations to staged interviews. Winner of the Hungarian Film Critics prize for best first feature. 1979, 35mm, 100 minutes.
Saturday, September 22
The Outsider (Szabadgyalog), 7:30 pm
This film chronicles a violinist’s escape from his bleak, banal life through music, dancing, and drinking at the local pub. Seeing it as both a reaction against contemporary Hungarian cinema and a political commentary, Tarr says, “We weren’t knocking at the door, we just beat it down. We were coming with some fresh, new, true, real things. We just wanted to show the reality—anti-movies.” 1981, 35mm, 122 minutes.
Friday, September 28
The Prefab People (Panelkapcsolat), 7:30 pm
Tarr’s first film with professional actors, The Prefab People examines the unraveling of a marriage, and in the process exposes the plight of the working class. Critic Jonathan Rosenbaum says the film is “the best of his early forays into Cassavetes-style social realism, summing up the painful, claustrophobic, and heartfelt depictions of marital discord found in his two previous features . . . and finding even more to say.” 1982, 35mm, 82 minutes.
Saturday, September 29
Almanac of Fall (Őszi almanac), 7:30 pm
A crumbling apartment is the setting for a tangle of shifting alliances and betrayals involving four morally ambiguous characters. Tarr applies an arresting color and lighting scheme of blues, reds, and greens to these characters’ inhumanity, underscoring the artificiality of the environment. A startling physical confrontation shot through a glass floor epitomizes the prodigious power struggle within this claustrophobic setting. 1984, 35mm, 122 minutes.
Friday, October 5
Damnation (Kárhozat), 7:30 pm
Damnation, says Tarr, “is about the landscape, the elements, and nature, about a unique world in which nothing remains.” The first film in his trilogy of László Krasznahorkai adaptations, it features Karrer, an aimless patron at Titanik, the aptly named bar in a crumbling mining town, and his obsession with an unhappily married cabaret singer. A nihilistic tale of betrayal, Damnation “sits astride the dissolution of the communist world, and documents this moment in a way that only great art can,” wrote Piers Handling of the Toronto International Film Festival. 1988, 35mm, 122 minutes.
Saturday, October 6
Werckmeister Harmonies (Werckmeister harmóniák), 7:30 pm
In an apocalyptic landscape, a town cut off from the world by ice is visited by a traveling circus. Headlined by the world’s biggest whale and the illusive figure of “The Prince,” the visitors spur a mob of restless townspeople to a night of chaos. In the film, characterized by a David Lynch–style surrealism and compared by editor and co-director Hranitzky to The Wizard of Oz, “violence and beauty erupt equally unexpectedly in this mesmerizing universe“(The Guardian). 2000, 35mm, 145 minutes.
Repeat screening: Friday, October 12, 7:30 pm
Thursday, October 11
Macbeth, 7:30 pm FREE
“Both Shakespeareans and devotees of international cinema will be stimulated by Tarr’s unusual achievement,” says the Chicago Tribune. With a remarkable cast of Hungarian actors, Tarr stages Shakespeare’s timeless story of treachery and deceit on a minimal, torch-lit set heavy with fog and intrigue. Originally made for television, this version of the classic play marks a turning point in the filmmaker’s career. With just two takes, his camera follows the characters’ movements and interactions in real time. 1982, video, 62 minutes.
Saturday, October 13
Satantango (Sátántangó), 1 pm
Ten years in the making, Tarr’s magnum opus and masterpiece, Satantango, is a collaborative adaptation with Krasznahorkai. Its form inspired by the tango—its 12 parts representing the dance’s six steps forward and six back—this darkly comic film chronicles the dissolution of a collective farm over a few autumn days, involving an ephemeral messianic figure. “Devastating, enthralling for every minute of its seven hours,” said Susan Sontag. “I’d be glad to see it every year for the rest of my life.” 1994, 35mm, 435 minutes. Screened with one 30-minute and one hour-long intermission.
Saturday, October 20
The Man from London (A Londoni férfi), 7:30 pm
Fresh from its screenings at the Cannes and Toronto film festivals, Tarr’s newest film features Tilda Swinton and is an adaptation of a Georges Simenon mystery about a man whose life changes after he witnesses a murder. The New York Times lauds its “moments of crystalline beauty.” 2007, 35mm, 132 minutes.
Repeat screening: Sunday, October 21, 2 pm