Kárhozat, (Damnation) Reviews
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.
the world of the damned
It might be scary that Tarr's masterpiece doesn't have a usual plot, its not about telling a story or judging, but it presents an inner state of a nation and a culture that is projected to a small Hungarian village at the back of beyond and its inhabitants.
damnation on all levels
Through the movie with still and clean pictures the main theme is shown in many aspects. Emotional and sexual damnation appears in the tragic-comic relationship of the main character Karrer and a bar singer. They are created as opposite as they could be: Karrer, being emotionally overcharged and having neither with nor without relations to women, because of being on another level of abstraction he totally neglects the fact of reality and importance of sexuality. Meanwhile the bar singer is being an emotional vegetable and (like the Jacques Audiards prophet) without moral or any deeper thinking or reasoning she acts the best possible in the present situation, giving herself to the man in charge.
The most amusing aspect for me was the environmental and the financial damnation. I believe that the environment is strongly connected to the finance and economy. Traveling through the images of the village reminds me of some Jim Jarmusch's road movie slow pictures and still faces, the same emptiness is felt but on an uncomfortable way, and while Jarmusch's world is infinite Tarr is making it claustrophobically small. The viewer is trapped in empty rooms streets and a bar, has the feeling of constantly turning around in one spot and not being able to get away. Seeing strangers but yet so familiar blighted faces from whom is impossible to hide. By and by the viewer excepts that the only distant things visible are mining machines through Karrer’s window.
One religious and/or spiritual symbol existed: the prophet in the shape of a cloakroom attendant. The old lady was a tiny candle light in a big dark room full of people damned to blindness. The only hope for the characters was walking between them preaching about the facts and reality which could lead to their salvation. For the tragedy to be bigger, it was in vain, blind people do not see the light.
not depressive but rather melancholic
Melancholy is a key for the movie. Some theories believe that it is caused by the concepts of sin, atonement, damnation and salvation. Through years melancholy was primer characteristic of Hungarians, always resurrected by religions like catholicism, communism and capitalism. Hungary was practically under the Russians from 1945 to 1989, no revolution had success in changing that. Even years before the nation was not on its own, having the German and Austrian power over them. Tarr's movie was made in the ending years of national slavery which is believed to be the damnation to Hungarian people, a bitter taste of melancholy in mouth. The question left behind might be: what is the reason of damnation? I think even this question is being answered between the lines.
With "Damnation," director Bela Tarr slows down the pace to create a sense that the characters are stuck in their predicaments without any hope of escape. This is especially true of Karrer who spends an awful lot of time looking at the aerial tram going past his windows. The only problem with this stylistic approach is that as often as it works(a slow pan around a bedroom), it just as much annoys. For example, no establishing shot should last a minute. And there are quite a few times when there is nothing of interest in the frame which leaves plenty of time for the viewer to get a drink, use the bathroom or work on the New York Times crossword puzzle.