Wednesday, April 29, 2009

THE MAN FROM LONDON (Béla Tarr, 2008, Hungary)

Maloin sits upon his dreary tower, his dull pounding monotonous life like the repetitive rumbling of clacking steel thunder, until a suitcase of stolen money offers reprieve from his purgatory existence.

This existential drama unfolds in the shadowy murk of morose close-ups and sullen camera movements, each face reflecting the terrain of life’s harsh temper, each deliberately paced tracking shot a brief revelation of emotional turmoil and angst. Director Béla Tarr deconstructs the Crime/Mystery genre and turns expectations upside-down: he shows us the mundane between the action, closing the viewer out of the physical and only revealing the metaphysical (that is, beyond the senses).

The plot is simple, much like the Coen brother’s masterpiece NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, only Tarr imbues his characters with realistic and empathetic attributes, reveling in their flawed humanity, and the journey becomes an internal inferno, a hellish struggle to live a better life. As Maloin’s family begins to self-destruct from this vicious secret, the thief and police inspector, both hot on his trail, begin to uncover the truth: he knows it’s only a matter of time before the money is discovered in his possession. He learns the source of the stolen money and the thief’s hiding place; instead of some unbelievable action sequence, Tarr shields us from the confrontation, which we expect to be peaceful.

Through a lens darkly we see the world shaded in Tarr’s unbeautifully gritty black and white cinematography, and even in this lost world of pathos a human being can still act morally…and do the right thing. Otherwise, we become animals ruled by greed and instinct, whose path to hell is paved with good intentions.

Final Grade: (B)

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