Béla Tarr


21 july, 1955



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Béla Tarr (born July 21, 1955) is a Hungarian film director.

Tarr was born in Pécs, but grew up in Budapest. His parents were both in the theatre and film industry: his father designed scenery, while his mother has worked as a prompter at a theatre for more than 50 years. Tarr was taken to a casting session run by Hungarian National Television (MTV) by his mother at the age of 10 where he ultimately won the role of the protagonist's son in a TV drama adaptation of Tolstoy's The Death of Ivan Ilyich. Other than a small role in Miklós Jancsó's film Szörnyek évadja (Season of Monsters, 1986) and few one-glimpse cameos (such as in Gábor Bódy's Dog's Night Song (1983)), Tarr sought no other acting role. By his own account, initially he sought to become a philosopher, and considered film-making as something of a hobby. However, after making his 8mm short films, the Hungarian government would not allow Tarr to attend university so he instead chose to pursue film production.

Tarr began to realize his interests with film-making at the age of 16 by making amateur films and later working as a caretaker at a national House for Culture and Recreation. Most of his amateur works were documentaries, mostly about the life of workers or poor people in urban Hungary. His amateur work brought him to the attention of the Béla Balázs Studios (named in honor of the Hungarian cinema theorist, Béla Balázs), which helped fund Tarr's 1977 feature debut Családi tűzfészek (Family Nest) at the age of 22. Tarr shot the film without any budget with non-professional actors (participating in the film only by "friendship" and without any salary) and on original locations in six days. The film was faithful to the "Budapest School" or "documentarist" style popular at the time within Béla Balázs Studios, maintaining absolute social realism on screen. Critics found the film to be suggestive of an influence from the directorial work of John Cassavetes, though Tarr denied having seen any of Cassavetes's films prior to shooting Családi tűzfészek. The film was eventually released in 1979.
After completing "Családi tűzfészek" Tarr began his studies in the Hungarian School of Theatrical and Cinematic Arts. The 1980 piece Szabadgyalog (The Outsider) and the following year's Panelkapcsolat (The Prefab People) continued in much the same vein with smaller changes in style. The latter was the first film by Tarr to feature professional actors in the leading roles. With a 1982 television adaptation of Macbeth, his work began to change dramatically; the film is composed of only two shots, the first shot (before the main title) five minutes long, the second 67 minutes. Not only did Tarr's visual sensibility move from raw close-ups to more abstract mediums and long shots, but also his philosophical sensibility shifted from grim realism to a more metaphysical outlook similar to that of Andrei Tarkovsky. Tarr himself considers Rainer Werner Fassbinder as his main influence and idol.

After 1984's Őszi almanach (Almanac of Fall), Tarr (who had written his first four features alone) began collaborating with Hungarian novelist László Krasznahorkai for 1988's Kárhozat (Damnation). A planned adaptation of Krasznahorkai's epic novel Sátántangó took over seven years to realize; the 415-minute film finally appeared to international acclaim in 1994. After the epic he released a 35-minute film Journey on the Plain in 1995 and fell into silence until the 2000 film Werckmeister Harmóniák (Werckmeister Harmonies), occasionally shot in very intense circumstances.[such as?] The film itself was very warmly welcomed by critics and the Festival circuit in general. Many if not most of the shots in these later films are up to eleven minutes long. It may take months to do a single shot. The camera swoops, glides, and soars. It circles the characters, it moves from scene to scene. It may, as in Sátántangó, travel with a herd of cows around a village, or follow the nocturnal peregrinations of an obese agoraphobic drunk who is forced to leave his house because he's run out of booze. Susan Sontag championed Tarr as one of the saviors of the modern cinema, saying she would gladly watch Sátántangó once a year.
After Werckmeister he began filming A Londoni férfi (The Man From London) an adaptation of a Georges Simenon novel. It was scheduled to be released at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival in May, but production had to be shut down because of the suicide of producer Humbert Balsan on February 10, 2005 and there were disputes with the other producers over a possible change in the film's financing. It premiered at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival and was released worldwide in 2008. Tarr then began working on a film called A torinói ló (The Turin Horse) which he has said will be his last.
For many years, none of his work was available on DVD (except in Japan), but Werckmeister Harmonies and Damnation have been made available on a two-disc DVD in Europe, courtesy of Artificial Eye (who have also issued The Man From London) and both films are now available in North America on separate DVDs from Facets Video. Tarr's early works; Family Nest, The Outsider, and The Prefab People; are also available on DVD in the USA, courtesy of Facets. Facets was supposed to release Sátántangó on DVD on November 28, 2006, but was delayed until July 22, 2008. Artificial Eye released the film on November 14, 2006. A comparison of the two DVD editions has been posted at DVD Beaver.
In September 2012, he received the BIAFF speacial award for lifetime achievement

In January 2011, Tarr joined the Board of Directors of the recently formed cinema foundation and NGO for human rights Cine Foundation International. In a press release dated January 24, 2011 Tarr made the following statement regarding the imprisonment of filmmakers Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof:
Cinematography is an integral part of universal human culture! An attack against cinematography is desecrating universal human culture! This cannot be justified by any notion, ideology or religious conviction! Our friend, brother and esteemed colleague Jafar Panahi is in prison today, based on conjured and fictional accusations! Jafar did not do anything else than what is the duty of all of us; to talk honestly, fairly about our own country and loved ones, to show everything that surrounds us with tender tolerance and harsh austerity! Jafar’s real crime is that he did just that; gracefully, elegantly and with a roguish smile in his eyes! Jafar made us love his heroes, the people of Iran; he achieved that they have become members of our families! WE CANNOT LOSE HIM! This is our common responsibility, as despite all appearances we belong together.

Gus Van Sant often cites Tarr as a huge influence on his later work, beginning with Gerry when Van Sant began using very long uninterrupted takes.
Tarr, and particularly his film Sátántangó, have been highly praised by, and considered to be a major influence on the remodernist film movement.


Position Producer