Daily Archives: May 9, 1996

A Place in the Pantheon: Films by Bela Tarr

From the Chicago Reader (May 9, 1996). — J.R.

Films by Bela Tarr

The movies of Hungarian filmmaker Bela Tarr — half a dozen features in all — are divided into two parts. His first three films are socialist realist cries of rage, much of their style influenced by John Cassavetes. The 1979 Family Nest is about a young couple forced to live in a one-room apartment with the husband’s parents; the 1981 The Outsider focuses on a shiftless, heavy-drinking violinist who fathers a child with one woman and marries another while working sporadically in a hospital and at a factory, then is called up for military service; and the 1982 The Prefab People is about an unhappy family of four: a frustrated wife, two kids, and a disaffected husband and father (another heavy drinker) who plans to take a two-year job in Romania, much to his wife’s distress.

The second half of Tarr’s oeuvre, its style influenced by Andrei Tarkovsky, moves beyond socialism and realism to look with mordant wit at something more universal: a form of moral decay, perhaps, but with metaphysical implications. Whereas the first half of Tarr’s output is mainly shot in raw close-ups, the second half is largely shot in detached medium and long shots.… Read more »