Damnation (1988, Bela Tarr)

Karrer (Futaki in Satantango) is kind of a loser. Dumped by his married girlfriend, he hangs out at local bars in a mining town until one bartender hires him to transport a package. So he talks the married girlfriend and her husband into helping him – they must be the only people he knows – and oh, how he talks them into it:

“This way it’s a nice family story. But it finishes like any other story, because stories end badly. Stories are all stories of disintegration. The heroes always disintegrate, and they disintegrate the same way.”

I’m not sure about the details. A coat check woman philosophizes. Karrer gets back with his girl, whose husband is in debt. The package has been opened. Things are missing. Karrer ends up at a police station. “It was this awful inner tension that brought me here, because of my deep respect for order. Please do not consider my report as a confidential case, but cheap tattling, and I authorize you, if necessary, to mention my name.”

Karrer ends the movie out in a junkyard barking at a dog.

Along the way: long shots, pouring rain, 4:3 b/w cinematography. Bela Tarr-like. It’s supposed to be the movie that kicked off Tarr’s long-take style, which means now I have only the social realist early films to check out. Finally watched this because I got a free preview offer for Janice Lee’s new Bela Tarr-inspired book, also entitled Damnation. Apologies to the publisher, but I am months and months behind right now – still looking forward to reading the book, and will post on it when I do.

P. Bradshaw: “Any conceivable drama or furtive eroticism latent in all this is entirely passed over in favour of a dark and general assessment of the futility of it all. It is as if Tarr has disengaged from these preposterous local activities and stepped back to inspect the bigger picture. … This is not a film that will have you whistling a happy tune on your way out of the theatre. In fact, a responsible manager will demand your tie and bootlaces on the way in.”