béla tarr again brings us intimate filmmaking filled with stark beauty. werckmeister harmonies is an effort that brings us the peculiar and haunted character of jános (lars rudolph), a young man who dreams of elsewhere and stands in awe of the world’s creations.
at 145 minutes it is substantially shorter than his previous effort, satantango. because of the way tarr approaches filmmaking, with emphasis on characterization and inner contemplation, werckmeister harmonies feels too short. not that it is incomplete, mind you. it’s simply that tarr’s universe is an addictive one. i remember the incredible feeling i had for days after first watching satantango years ago. at something like seven hours in length, satantango was an experience that engulfed me entirely, changing my visual perception. an epiphany. a metamorphosis. a subtle shifting of my neurons.
seeing béla tarr in person, hearing him speak of his concept of filmmaking after satantango, impressed upon me the importance of his work and philosophy. people speak of tarr in the same tones as andrei tarkovsky, and for good reason. they share a visual language and both explore the human search for meaning, presenting images that permanently append themselves to your mind. while we watched satantango tarr spent most of the time walking the rainy streets of vancouver. he commented on how much he enjoyed the walk, which is telling of his visual sensibilities.
his films are dark, described as ‘apocalyptic’. in harmonies, an old man, naked and frightened, stands alone after a brutal attack on a hospital. drunks are directed in an explanation of how the earth and moon orbit. quietness. footfalls on dark streets. creation. destruction. the nature of humanity. while his films could be ‘apocalyptic’, they can also act as reassuring reminders of the many facets of existence and our struggles to cope with them. it is not our success that marks us, but our continuance in that struggle.
his past two films are based on novels by lázló krasznahorkai. i’d like to track these down if english translations exist in order to better understand how tarr approaches the translation between text and image.
béla tarr, in one of his good humoured comments, spoke of how he would probably continue to make the same film over and over again throughout his career. to many filmmakers this sentiment would be demeaning, but to tarr it seems as though it is a commentary on the complexity of the individual, and the impossibility of truly capturing their entire being on film. if he keeps making the same films repeatedly it only means that i will have many years of cinema to look forward to.