Damnation ★★★★

My first Bela Tarr- and I think I like it!

As far as I've heard, this is the least extreme of Tarr's
output of misery. It is slow, but not as slow as Tarr would
eventually get.

The controlled camerawork of Tarr is hypnotic and mysterious. Through his eyes, the mundane becomes entracing. Rain drops in a street, people staring at the horizon, the simple motion of steam escaping from a cooking pot... those are the sources of wonder in Damnation. The observational powers on display follow the Tarkovskian tradition of "sculpting in time", but with a different spin on it. While Tarkovsky was concerned with the spiritual and the divine, Tarr's world is entirely devoid of any higher power. As such the struggle for meaning gets worse. For him life is a source of despair and anguish. The characters on this film yearn for happiness, but any attempt at obtaining it is futile. There is an elderly woman who clings to her faith and preaches to the protagonist, but it is only as a way to shield herself from the misery surrounding her.

The characters don't engage in conversation; too self absorbed in their own sad lifes to actually mind the input of others, they monologue. When they try to make a meaningful connection, it is only to fulfill their selfish need of human touch, and in return, their advances are tragically refused. There is a sex scene here, but it is so lifeless and unenthusiastic it becomes pathetic. There is no passion, there's no warmth, there is only neediness.

If no one listens, no one goes out of his way to engage others, the human spirit atrophies, becoming a breeding ground for despair.

Jesus, and I thought Bergman was bleak!

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