Damnation ★★★★½

Damnation is almost a prelude to Béla Tarr's final two decades of unique work; it has his black-and-white cinematography and bleak imagery but not his commitment to constant long takes (although the average shot length is still far in excess of most films). This makes Damnation a fine example of slow cinema, but not of Tarr's super slow cinema. 

Damnation, like all of Tarr's greatest work, follows people on the brink of apocalypse, in a world between barbarism and civilisation. It is very much our own existence. The people are lonely specks in Tarr's cinema, and his dedication to creating a total environment makes them passive observers to their fates and needs. László Krasznahorkai, one of the world's foremost authors of philosophical allegory, began his first of many collaborations with Béla Tarr by co-writing Damnation and his world of harsh indifference is bitterly watchable.

Obviously Damnation is an auteurist masterpiece, and anyone who admires Sátántangó or Werckmeister Harmonies or The Turin Horse will understand why. Unlike those films though, Damnation is not a testing experience of depressing endurance (although few experiences are as worthwhile). It is lighter, happier, less complex. 

Nothing else needs to be said, Damnation is a work of Tarr, the most singular cinematic auteur of the modern era, and it sits alongside his other works as a fine companion. It's on the lower end of his final five distinctive films, but that is no disservice considering the high quality of his best efforts. If you have seen Tarr's work, Damnation is exactly the quality you'd expect and that's a great compliment. If you haven't seen Tarr's work, start here, it's less extreme, and if you love it, keep digging.

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