The Man from London DVD
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Directed by Bela Tarr
Produced in 2007
Main Language - French with English subtitles
Michael Brooke finds Tarr's latest work as satisfyingly uncompromising as ever.
Anyone thinking that one of the most uncompromisingly heavyweight auteurs in contemporary cinema had succumbed to the lure of base commerce when he chose to adapt a mystery novel by Inspector Maigret creator Georges Simenon as the basis for his first feature in seven years will be relieved to hear that The Man From London is quintessential Béla Tarr, and a fitting follow-up to Damnation, Sátántangó and Werckmeister Harmonies.
Shot in smoky, crepuscular black-and-white by fellow director Fred Kelemen, it’s scored with a haunting accordion waltz by regular collaborator Mihály Vig, and has an internationally eclectic cast whose British contingent includes Tilda Swinton, as well as Edward Fox on dubbing duties in this – Tarr’s preferred – Anglo-French version. It rivets the attention from the opening panoramic track across a coastal French harbour where a seemingly straightforward case of customs evasion leads to a dispute over a briefcase, which in turn leads to murder. The briefcase inadvertently falls into the hands of the crime’s only witness, harbour signalman Maloin (Czech actor Miroslav Krobot), but when he finds that it’s full of banknotes, far from heralding the end of decades of impoverished drudgery and a long-desired new life for his family, they become the source of all-consuming existential torment. Meanwhile, the murder investigation proceeds at a glacial pace, courtesy of 87-year-old Hungarian veteran István Lenárt as the British detective Morrison, seemingly more concerned with being seen to tie up loose ends than in achieving true justice in any accepted sense. In any case, Tarr tells us who the killer is from the start: he’s much more interested in his characters’ psychology and indeed physiognomy, taking as much time as he feels is necessary to scrutinise an extraordinary collection of faces and try to tease out the construction of the minds behind them. And if this is ultimately as futile a gesture as Maloin’s farcical ‘treat’ for his daughter Henriette (Erika Bók, formerly the cat-tormenting waif in Sátántangó), it serves to intensify the underlying mystery even as Tarr meticulously pares away all the conventional generic elements. No-one else is making films quite like this.
Michael Brooke on 2nd March 2009
Author of 145 reviews
Bela Tarr takes a lesser-known novel by Belgian crime novelist Georges Simenon as the source for this brooding mystery drama in which a middle-aged dockland worker's life changes forever after he witnesses a violent altercation between two men on the harbourside that results in one of them drowning, taking a suitcase full of British sterling down with him.
Exploring themes of desire, greed and man's longing for freedom, this hypnotic film bears the distinctive trademarks of Tarr's universe - stunning, fluid monochrome photography, pared-down dialogue and performances (including a striking appearance by Tilda Swinton), and a hauntingly beautiful score by long-time Tarr collaborator Mihály Víg.
Publisher: Artificial Eye
Length: 132 mins
Aspect ratio: 1.78:1 widescreen
Format: DVD B&W
Released: 6th April 2009
Cat No: ART416DVD
- Interview With Béla Tarr
- Theatrical Trailer.
“The Man from London, Bela Tarr”
by Asher Cowan on 26th December 2011
Bela Tarr's, The Man from London, tells the story of railway signalman Maloin (Miroslav Krobot), who hardly registers what is going on around him. Suddenly his life ta... Read on
Bela Tarr's, The Man from London, tells the story of railway signalman Maloin (Miroslav Krobot), who hardly registers what is going on around him. Suddenly his life takes a turn, when he witnesses a murder and becomes mixed up with a English police inspector (Istvn Lnrt), in matters that are completely foreign to him, forcing him to face morality and the thin line between innocence and complicity.
The film was beautifully shot in black and white by cinematographer Fred Kelemen (who recently did Tarr's new film The Turin Horse) and the acting of Miroslav Krobot and Tilda Swinton was excellent. With brilliant Mise-en-scne from Tarr and a haunting score from his long collaborator Mihaly Vig, this film could easily have been a masterpiece, like his previous films Satantango and Werckmeister Harmonies.
However, there are small problems, which there could have been without. The over the top Britishness of the inspector was very stereotypical, sounding and acting like something out of a 1940's Ealing Studios film. Another thing was that Istvn Lnrt, must had been well over seventy, which makes this quite unrealistic. These details lessened the film, making it an outstanding to watch, but failing to reach it's full potential.
However, this is an excellent film, besides it's shortcomings. Although it is not one of the best of Tarr's work, it is still worth purchasing, for it's breathtaking cinematography and the impeccable acting of Krobot and Swinton. If you are new to Bela Tarr, get Werckmeister Harmonies, which I believe to be his best released on DVD and one of the greatest films of the last decade. If you already have Tarr's other films then you should definitely add The Man From London to your collection as it is still a great film which should not be missed. Hide
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