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Cinema & The Arts as Sermons: The Dark & Dystopian Films of Bela Tarr

The Apocalyptic Filmmaker that Haunts My Soul

"About this video essay: An analysis of the films of Béla Tarr; covering Nietzsche’s philosophical influences; existentialism, humanism, and the art of deep emotion." from video introduction

"Stories have always had a strong impact on me, they affected the way I look at the world, they helped make me a better person, and I wanted to better understand this relation; I wanted to articulate all those intangible feelings that stories invoked in me, how they moved me, and how they made feel more connected to myself and to the world and the people around me. But above all, I felt the need to put this out into the world, to confirm that I am not alone in this, that there are others who share these feelings too, and long to understand them." from YouTube Channel

photo of bela tarr
Film Maker Bela Tarr

"Béla Tarr insists that his films do not fall into distinctive periods, preferring to identify something akin to a steady evolution rather than marked turning points. Arguing, for example, “if you watch them all together, you can see that this is the same man’s work,”1 there are notable shifts in his filmography, at least on the surface. Perhaps the idea would not be as routinely posited were the latter portions of his output not so inimitably distinguished. While his features released prior to Almanac of Fall (1984) – arguably the film that centers this partition and hinges on its own uniqueness – may resemble those by a number of other directors, the films that follow are exemplary of what one considers the quintessential ‘cinema of Béla Tarr.’ There are certainly continuances in terms of themes, plot points, and characterizations, but in his more recent films, Tarr etches a definitive and incomparable impression on modern cinema, embellishing the screen with instantly identifiable formal qualities: stark black and white imagery, prolonged single takes, depressed and austere settings, and a cast of forlorn, cynical, and destitute characters. The fact of the matter either way, regardless of whether one views his oeuvre as an unbroken progression of commonalities or as a distinctly divided advancement, is that over the course of just nine features and a handful of shorts, television productions, and documentaries, Tarr has developed a singular vision within the international film landscape.

Tarr grew up in Budapest, where his first working exposure to the performing arts came by way of an acting turn in the 1956 television movie, Iván Iljics halála, an adaptation of Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilyich (Tarr’s only two additional appearances before the camera would include small roles in Gábor Bódy’s Kutya éji dala [1983] and Miklós Jancsó’s Season of Monsters [1987]). Though dabbling in 8mm shorts as a teen, Tarr had no real intention of becoming a filmmaker. But that changed with his involvement in Hungary’s leftist movement, through which he began working on a documentary – now lost – called Guest Workers (Vendégmunkások, 1971), about the Hungarian Socialist Workers Party. In his youthful vigor, Tarr was eager to change the world. The movie camera went from being “just a piece of equipment” to a mechanism with which he could examine the nation’s domestic angst.." from the website:

All 9 Bela Tarr Movies Ranked From Worst To Best

"One of the most highly polarizing auteurs of contemporary cinema, the Hungarian-born writer-director Béla Tarr has nevertheless delivered some of the most resounding films to ever come from Europe. Making nine features in a career spanning nearly four decades, Tarr’s style has definitely evolved over time.

Starting in the Budapest school movement (1972-1984) – often compared to cinema vérité (itself inspired by Kino Pravda) – Tarr made films rooted in social-realism, still including his prominent motifs of repetition, fear, the intergenerational rift, corruption, and the critique of dehumanizing politico-economical systems.

Through the years, however, Tarr developed a preference for formalist filmmaking, realising that a composed (artificial) cinematography doesn’t necessitate artificial characters or emotions. In fact, Tarr’s emotional (and some would argue aesthetical) realism seemingly reached new profundity as he grew into his formalistic skin, offering a bold type of realism few others in his field could successfully deliver.." from the article: All 9 Bela Tarr Movies Ranked From Worst To Best

Introduction to Nietzsche

Video from Academy of Ideas

"In this lecture we provide an introduction to some of Friedrich Nietzsche's main ideas. In particular we look at his views on morality, nihilism, suffering, truth, the overman, amor fati, and the eternal recurrence." from video introduction

The Turin Horse (10 hours)

Video from Paul Domingo

For those of you up to the task here is the 10 hours of "The Turin Horse".

The True Story of the Turin Horse (or Nietzsche's Horse)

A legendary episode changed the life (and thought) of one of Germany’s greatest philosophers...

"If there’s a multifaceted figure in the history of human thought, it’s that of Friedrich Nietzsche. A musician, poet, philosopher, and philologist, he changed Western philosophy forever. Less well-known is that Nietzsche had very particular relationships with animals and, especially, with a horse he stumbled upon one day in Turin.

On January 3, 1889, in an outburst, Nietzsche left the home of his hosts in the Italian city to witness a scene which irreversibly touched his soul: a horse being whipped by the driver of a chariot. Seeing this, Nietzsche threw himself onto the neck of the animal to defend him from the blows. He immediately burst into tears. That same day, he was almost arrested for rioting, but was saved by his Italian host and taken home. The episode, hovering somewhere between legend and reality, marks the beginning of the madness which was to last 11 years until the very day of Nietzsche’s death..' from the article: The True Story of the Turin Horse (or Nietzsche's Horse)

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