A cable car is bringing rocks from a nearby quarry over a desolate and grey landscape in central Hungary. As the camera slowly pans back we see a lonely man staring out of the window as he smokes his cigarette. So begins Bela Tarr's evocative picture based around the obsessions of a listless man named Karrer. Like his later film Werckmeister Harmonies, Damnation is a slow moving and intriguing look into the despair of life. It is a staggering work of beauty and pain.
Tarr is clearly influenced by Tarkovsky in that he feels no need to use pace in order to fill a movie with drama. All of the action comes about thorough allusions to feelings of loneliness, loss and confusion. However his visual style also has many allusions to the great European stylists of the 30's who moved to Hollywood and formed the backbone to the Film Noir movement. One scene in particular starts outside a run down club with rain pouring as fog rebounds from the tarmac, a man stands alone in the shadows, and the only light is provided by the eerie neon sign.
This film is the work of an absolute genius who makes no concessions with regards to his vision. As with all Tarr's major works the score is provided by Mihaly Vig who once again manages to hit the nail on the head with a woozy, Eastern European jazz inflected soundtrack. To get an understanding of the films themes I will finish with the English translations of a song that the singer in the bar, who Karrer is obsessed with, sings during the monumental "Titanik Bar" scene:
It's all over.
And there won't be another.
It won't be good.
Maybe Never More".