(Béla Tarr, Hungary, 1993)


As a public figure, Béla Tarr is charismatic and disconcerting in about equal measure. For someone whose films are so exacting and hermetic, he has an odd way of angrily deflecting interpretative questions: "No symbolism, no metaphor, no allegory!" is his favourite, possibly disingenuous cry.

There is an undoubted Tarr cult around the global cinephilia scene, and it is easy to see why his work immediately draws people in. His films have a hypnotic rhythm and a grim intensity that is draining, almost vampirish – the demonic quality that fans ascribe to his content also holds good for his form.

Ultimately, the seven hour Sátántango is one of those fundamental and unimpeachable experiences: there really is nothing like it in all cinema, and to survive the duration gives one the satisfaction of having plunged into a fully-shaped imaginative world.

Remember all those endlessly wet, slushy, grey vistas from Tarkovsky? Here, you're standing in them.

MORE Tarr: The Werckmeister Harmonies

© Adrian Martin April 2001

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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