The Man from London: Tarr, a master of hypnosis
by Fabien Lemercier
The international press is certain to remember for a long time yet yesterday’s official competition screening at the Cannes Film Festival of The Man from London [+see also:
film profile] by Hungarian director Béla Tarr, who gave a real lesson in cinema at his best hypnotic form.
Imbibing the detective film genre (robbery, stalking, cross-examination) in his characteristic highly contemplative tempo that leads to a perception of reality that is quite unusual onscreen, The Man from London unveils, in black-and-white, Tarr’s quintessential cinematographic talent. Navigating in space and time, exaggerated by the length of the shots (the opening scene is fifteen minutes of silence that ends with a black screen), the director shows fine artistic talent.
Impressive lights and shadows, endless camera movements with an exceptional fluidity and a rare inventiveness in enclosed spaces, a haunting score that alternates between the water-drop Chinese torture type and a clock with two recurrent dongs (one oppressive, another melancholic), close-ups where faces are scrutinised, with an infinite sea stretching out in the background – Tarr pushes himself to the extreme, opening new territories for those willing to explore them.
From his observation tower, night-time lighthouse keeper Maloin (Czech actor Miroslav Krobot) has a bird’s eye view of everything. When he witnesses a murder and finds himself in possession of the loot (a suitcase stuffed with bank notes), Maloin – isolated by his job and a general atmosphere seeping with poverty and depression – is plunged into a world of suspicion. In the days that follow, in contrast, he finds himself surrounded by the thief (the man from London – Janos Derzsi) and a police inspector (Istvan Lenart) after the money.
Tarr tells the story like a game in slow motion, with numerous psychological duels, including one between Maloin and his wife (Tilda Swinton), who is numbed by the changes in her husband’s behaviour ("You’re like an animal"). Maloin, however, continues hiding his secret only to improve the life of his daughter, who discovers at his expense the meaning of corrupt power and how money make people turn to crime.
Produced, after several ups-and-downs (see article), by Hungary (46%), France (41%) and Germany (13%),The Man from London will be released in France through Shellac and is being sold internationally by Dutch outfit Fortissimo.
(Translated from French)
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