Tarr. I might be another watch of The Turin Horse and especially Satantango away from shooting Tarr up to my top 50 directors of all-time. According to the consensus, Satantango is the 103rd best film of all-time and I have it as a Must-See (top 5 of the year) film- quite a ways apart there. Obviously I adore Tarr and his bravura so we’ll see if that changes with another viewing. Clearly the weakness for Tarr for the purposes of this list is he is extremely unprolific and can’t even round out a top 5. Beyond the filmography he’s a “style-plus” director in every sense of what I’ve invented that term for and what it’s supposed to me. His films are consistently jaw-dropping visually—stunning to look at.
Best film: Werckmeister Harmonies. It took a couple viewings for me and nearly a decade and a half for others but WH has emerged as one of the best films of the 00’s decade and I don’t think there’s much to debate about that.
total archiveable films: 4
top 100 films: 1 (Werckmeister Harmonies)
top 500 films: 2 (Werckmeister Harmonies, Satantango)
top 100 films of the decade: 3 (Werckmeister Harmonies, Satantango, The Turin Horse)
most overrated: Satantango. I have it as his 3rd film and overall TSPDT has it as like the 3rd best film of the 1990’s. It’s dense and long (7.5 hours) but I need to give it another look. Certainly if this film is the caliber of Breaking the Waves or Goodfellas it dramatically changes how I would view Tarr.
most underrated: Nothing here- overall now Tarr is very well respected by critics—Satantango is #103 and at #363 and #418 respectively while both WH and Turin Horse are technically underrated—they’re tracking really well for 21st century films.
gem I want to spotlight: Damnation (1988) is the beginning of the Bela Tarr aesthetic we now associate with him (see below). I’ve seen 1985’s Almanac of the Fall and despite the RT score I don’t love it and it’s in color and has a ton of dialogue- unrecognizable Bela Tarr.
stylistic innovations/traits: Even the best of reviews for Tarr’s films with refer to them as glacial. His films are existential and somber and it’s hard to not think of Tarkovsky (specifically the first section of Stalker) when you watch Tarr’s work as well. Tarr is one of the great movers of the camera—the traditional cinematography—in cinema history. His films are elaborately choreographed with long gorgeous tracking shots with dialogue dubbing. Tarr creates sort of a hypnotic dance with his actors and the camera. His style and content are perfectly married as his films carry a truly scary sense of doom, often times in sort of an otherworldly multi-layered labyrinth feel. I also pilfered this from TSPDT but Tarr’s ethos on style vs story is here “ I don’t care about stories. I never did. Every story is the same. We have no new stories. We’re just repeating the same ones. I really don’t think, when you do a movie that you have to think about the story. The film isn’t the story.”
- Werckmeister Harmonies
- The Turin Horse
By year and grades
|2000- Werckmeister Harmonies||MP|
|2011- The Turin Horse||MP|
*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film
MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film
HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film
R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives
there was a satantango screening in my city recently before the virus but i couldn’t get to it. haven’t seen any of his films but want to. do you know where to watch these.
@ m – I’ll let others chime in. But these are hard to find sadly- I have been lucky enough to catch DVD versions over the years. I actually bought the bluray for the Turin Horse- which I never do.
It is on the Criterion Channel now, excellent film, brilliant, it will re-wire your brain if you let it, as one local critic claimed! I got a free trial period for Criterion and have no other connection to this entity. I think it used to be FilmStruck or something like that.
@David Tindall- thanks for sharing— “re-wire your brain if you let it”- haha. love that
When you watched Satantango, Drake, did you watch it over multiple viewings or in a single sitting, or even one day but you got up and did other things then started it up again? Because I know it is an exceptionally long film, twice as long as the longest film I’ve ever seen (OUaTiA).
And if there’s anyone else who’s seen Satantango I’d be interested in your responses.
@Zane- I believe it was two nights back to back. I don’t think I’d be doing it justice if I tried to do it all at once
I have tried to watch Werckmeister Harmonies again but literally his movie is not on any streaming service, with the exception of Satan tango his movies are hard to find.
How have you seen WH?
Also how high is your estimate on the turin horse?
I remember seeing a pretty good list in which the turin horse and the tree of life were in the top 20 (all time)
@Aldo- I’ve seen the dvd copy a few times. I actually own the Bluray of The Turin Horse- and my estimation of it is very high.
Actually Werckmeister Harmonies is underrated at #370 on the TSPDT list. In fact in the last update The Turin Horse climbed from #378 to #322 while Werckmeister Harmonies dropped from #367 to #370.Surely it deserves a better fate.
@Anderson- I think it is still 15th on the 2000’s list for TSPDT. I take that into account.
[…] 70. Bela Tarr […]
I really don’t get why Damnation is so underrated. The way it looks it can stand up to absolutely any film out there. From the masterful opening to the last second of the film you are looking at something beautiful at all times. There’s not a single moment when this film is not beautiful. Great cinematography, creative camera placement, almost hypnotic sequences of slow camera movement, very skillful mise en scene work, just pay attention what he chooses to put in front of you. It’s impressive in both meaning and aestethics.
It’s ranked about 2600 on tspdt which would make it probably the most underrated film on thier entire list in my opinion. I just don’t get what is the reasoning? Why is it so far away from Werckmeister’s Harmonies or Turin Horse? Maybe the ending is a little bit iffy when the women he loves so much goes to please another random guy in the car and he ends up barking with the dogs in the mud. I would agree it’s somewhat immature and even childish, like a 14 year old screaming life is not fair, but it still holds up, like It’s not super over the top obnoxious or anything.. and if you want to argue it’s a step back compared to his best 3 films in that sense I get it but the gap is way too big and at some point how are you going to ignore what you are seeing on the screen..
And it’s underrated here too..I already said couple of times I don’t really agree with your criteria and that you overemphasize style compared to form but that should work for my case this time around hahah but no.. you still have Damnation as the lowest tier. I don’t know am I crazy or what, I just can’t understand the consensus on this one.
@Dzoni – if you look at the more recent page for 1988, Damnation has gone up to a HR grade which might be more fitting (I haven’t seen it)
@Dzoni- Thank you for the comment. Funny one to mention as I have Damnation circled on my short list of films to watch in the next month or so. Excited to revisit again.
@Dzoni- I was able to catch Damnation again here before it leaves Criterion streaming at the end of the month- and you are quite right- it is much closer to Werckmeister’s Harmonies or The Turin Horse- I was wrong here. Thank you for putting the spotlight on this film.
@Drake – would grade would you award Damnation right now?
@Harry- MS I believe- need a little time to digest (watched it last than 12 hours ago)
Hey man I’m late but glad we agree
@Dzoni- All good- thank you for the comment. Let me know where else I’ve missed!