Béla Tarr's reputation mostly rings true upon viewing his work; he does not trade in happiness. Damnation is a bleak film, to the point that it opens on some creaky lifts taking people back and forth over and over again and only gets more monotonous from there. The apartments his characters live in are dirty, the town is constantly deluged with rain, mud is everywhere, the environment so depressing that a trip to a local nightclub where a woman sings about how nothing will ever be good again seems like a welcome bit of levity. The music is repetitive, as are the natural sounds. Someone recites passages from the bible about how god wants to kill us all. When people have sex, it is lifeless. And yet, he makes the case that in this lonely, desolate world, relationships present a means of survival, and that bit of hope (that is ultimately tethered to the inevitability of death, but I digress) is what elevates it beyond mere cruelty.
I watched this because I was sad and because it's currently raining, and the characters' empty existences actually made me feel better through comparison.