Press release: exhibition Béla Tarr – Till the End of the World at EYE Filmmuseum (Amsterdam) From 21 January to 7 May, 2017, EYE is presenting the exhibition Béla Tarr – Till the End of the World. Béla Tarr is widely regarded as one of the most influential film authors of the past thirty years. He is a master of the magnificent long take, a master of wonderfully shot, melancholic films that express the human condition. For the exhibition at EYE, Tarr, who after his 2011 film The Turin Horse decided not to make any more films, has picked up the camera one more time to shoot his very last scene. It is his anger about how refugees are treated in Europe, and especially in Hungary, that drove him to make a poetic, philosophical and ultimately political statement.
Béla Tarr – Till the End of the World,
21 January to 7 May 2017 at EYE, IJpromenade 1, Amsterdam, eyefilm.nl
Béla Tarr (Pécs, Hungary, 1955) made his mark internationally with Damnation (1988) and enhanced his reputation and standing with the more than seven-hour-long Satantango (1994) and Werckmeister Harmonies (2000). All three films can be considered a commentary on the vulnerability of human civilization. Unexpected, threatening developments seem to bring out the animal instincts in people and rapidly any sense of mutual solidarity in a closed community. These are sweeping, earthly films that portray mankind in his existential despair. However, an occasional glimpse of deliverance appears, when the drink flows, the orchestra plays and bar guests lose themselves in drunken merriment.
Tarr considers his final film to be a film about the end of the world, and hence the end of his own filmography. He could not imagine ever making another film that was more pared down, more reduced to its essence. Since then, Tarr has run a film school in Sarajevo. For the exhibition at EYE, however, he has once again picked up the camera to film one final scene. His anger about how refugees and migrants are treated in Europe, and especially in Hungary, has compelled him to make a statement and voice his views.
Béla Tarr was sixteen when he started to make films, chiefly naturalistic and social dramas and documentaries. He developed his distinctive and influential style after his studies at the film academy in Budapest. Since (1988), Tarr’s films have been characterized by long takes and little montage, mostly shot in breath-taking black and white. His characters live impoverished lives in a mood of dead-end despair in the desolate landscape of rural Hungary. Tarr presents his audience with an existence stripped of all trimmings and invites them to feel compassion.
Style and substance are inextricably linked to each other in the work of Béla Tarr. His films present a sombre view of a world in which people have no grip on their existence and are forced to suffer their fate passively. The characters in his films feel abandoned by life. The films are chiefly set in dreary surroundings dominated by decay, disintegration and disinterest. But out of this situation, Tarr, one of the great masters of contemporary cinema, has created a body of work that is hypnotic in its visual power. Tarr displays more courage than anyone in trusting the image to lift viewers out of the misery. After Damnation he filmed in black and white only, although grey might be more accurate, and used extremely long shots in which he lets the camera ‘explore’ a space or landscape very slowly.
Specially for EYE
Specially for EYE, Tarr has created an exhibition that is a cross between a film, a theatre set and an installation. In his films, Tarr has always presented the downside of progress, the other side of the coin. It therefore comes as no surprise that he feels called upon to make a statement against the inhuman treatment of thousands of migrants and refugees who are trying to give their lives a dignity that – in Europe – is denied them. At EYE, Tarr will draw on ‘found footage’, images of war, fragments from his own films (including Damnation, The Turin Horse, Satantango, Werckmeister Harmonies), props and a version of the tree from The Turin Horse and a new scene, specially filmed for the exhibition, to articulate both his bleak view of the world and his compassion for those marginalized by society.
Tarr: “I still consider film not as show business, but as the seventh art. I have never been interested in stories, because the story is forever the same. Just read the Old Testament; it’s all in there. We don’t need to tell any new stories, since we always end up telling the same old story.”
EYE has been following the work of this internationally celebrated director for some considerable time, and his films have been screened regularly in the Netherlands. Béla Tarr is renowned for his love of the long shot, in which he explores the extreme boundaries of the language of cinema. EYE has collected and distributed all of his films. Accompanying the exhibition is a flanking film programme in the cinemas, and a number of Tarr’s films will be released again.
Source: ( text and photo) eyefilm.nl, courtesy Béla Tarr
Photo:Kárhozat (Damnation) (1987), Béla Tarr, courtesy Béla Tarr