Visually beautiful, the ascetic black and white shots are accompanied by the minimalistic score of violins and organ, silence and the sound of a violent wind. The shots are carefully choreographed, their austerity and long takes reminded me of Tarkovsky. Lack of plot only enhances the symbolism, it seemed to me. I have to admit, several times during those 2.5 hours I regretted I did not have a cup of coffee to keep me more awake and alert. Even though at moments it was hard to endure, the huge cinema hall was packed and I saw only 3 walk outs. Everybody else sat as if mesmerized. The metaphysical depths felt behind the visual surface make this film enigmatic.
Particular scenes and shots are most moving: when the woman gently pleads with the horse to drink and eat, the sheer immobility and inward quietness of the animal as if it is ‘not-there’ is uncanny. The flapping of the folds of her clothing as she struggles against the wind to fetch water is beautiful. The laconic shots of the dining table with just two glasses and a bowl are picture-perfect. The mesmerizing fury of the storm outside (I kept wondering during the movie, where did he get to film such a wind-storm and where are these landscapes?) and the isolated niche of their world are underscored acoustically each time the door opens and closes. Him eating the potato with one hand, her after a couple days not even touching the food – creates such a despondent atmosphere. This film expresses depths with such minimalistic means, which only strengthens the effect.
As becomes evident from the daughter’s questions and the father’s answers, they remain unknowing to the reasons of apocalyptical darkening down of the world, things getting disjointed. Unreflecting, they submit themselves to everyday repetition of life routine, the monotony of human condition, the everyday recurrence of the same, without obvious meaning and direction and hope for anything beyond that. Nietzsche’s words from “The Gay Science” come to mind during these scenes, it felt like Bela Tarr filmed the abysmal question that Nietzsche so courageously put: “What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you in your loneliest loneliness and say to you: “This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and everything unutterably small or great in your life will have to return to you, all in the same succession and sequence — even this spider and this moonlight between the trees, and even this moment and I myself. The eternal hourglass of existence is turned upside down again and again — and you with it, speck of dust!” […] How well would you have to be disposed towards yourself and towards life to have no greater desire than this eternal sanction and seal?”
Could very well be that Bela Tarr had totally something else in mind when he was filming these scenes but their everyday ascetic and meager lives, consisting of the ritual of getting up, washing, eating a potato, trying to leave to town and not being able to, retiring to bed
- seems to have a parallel to Nietzsche’s metaphysical questioning.
The movie ends with mirroring the world going down. I did expect something different to happen, because I was treating it the whole time like a usual movie. But it ended quite unexpectedly (which makes me think, how else does life happen?). It was my last film out of 10 I saw at Berlinale 2011 and it is kind of fitting that it was the last one. Fits perfectly as the last one, left a lasting aftertaste.