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Damnation [DVD] [1988]
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on 24 April 2010
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 finished.
It's all over.
Over.
And there won't be another.
It won't be good.
Ever again.
Never More.
Maybe Never More".
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
A bleak sense of the unreal hangs heavy over every scene of this atmospherically oppressive black and white 'apocalyptic film-noir', from Hungarian director, Bela Tarr.

With a bar full of chatter-less men, accompanied by the odd clack from a pool table ball, a lone accordion laments. I so pictured Greta Garbo, or Marlene Dietrich half drawling, half wailing into the microphone, in another scene at the seedy Titanik Club. Known in the credits only as 'the singer', our subject is the forlorn Vali Kerekes, usually looking straggled by the rain, or just life itself, as she aimlessly - and toxically, a predatory abuser of all the men she has contact with, floats in and out of her life.

True, Tarr's unrelenting melancholic, drifting camera, wafting like the blankets of fog, black and white images that evoke an earnest socio documented photo assignment from times past, won't ever be considered essential viewing at The Samaritans. However, there is a certain dreary prose to it all, that perhaps, this is what love and life is really like - and about.

Sliding into an image, cinematographer Gabor Medivgy, meticulously composes every frame, even the most mundane. Sound is a key part to Tarr's work; a scene will almost be static, seemingly for many minutes (but actually seconds), such as the lovers embraced, naked, to the monotonous mechanical sound of the rail depot, the camera then swings so slowly round the room, to an image in the mirror of the couple now silently making love, then sweeping at the same speed to an old piano. This is simply masterful - a masterclass for all those interested in the art of film-making.

I could go on, but will say that Damnation shouldn't be anyone's introduction to World, or indeed, Hungarian cinema. It could irreparably taint your outlook on such for a very long time! But for those seasoned in all forms of cinema and when viewed in suitable conditions (not a sunny day, but at night or on a rainy day; perfect) it is both compelling and oddly poetically beautiful.

Compared to Bela Tarr's more well-known - and accessible 'Werckmeister Harmonies', this is more down to earth, the fantastical element has been replaced by an ugly dreary reality. So, please don't assume that because you enjoyed '...Harmonies', you necessarily will like Damnation too.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 23 May 2012
Hungarian screenwriter, producer and director Béla Tarr`s fifth feature film which he co-wrote with his frequent collaborator, Hungarian writer László Krasznahorkai, was produced by Jósef Marx and is a Hungarian production which was screened in the Forum section at the 38th Berlin International Film Festival in 1988. It tells the story about Karrer, a desolate middle-aged man who lives a rather isolated life in a small Hungarian town. Karrer`s is deeply in love with a woman he once had a relationship with who is now a married mother and a torch singer at a local bar called titanik. Considering her his only reason for existing, he does everything in his power to capture her attention and believes that he has found a way when he is offered a shady job. Determined to regain the love of his life, Karrer offers the job to her husband.

Distinctly and subtly directed by modernist filmmaker Béla Tarr, this visually remarkable fictional tale, draws an acute portrayal of a disillusioned man`s personal crusade for love in an uncivilized rural society. While notable for its distinct milieu depictions, the prominent art direction by Hungarian-born actor, costume designer and production designer Gyula Pauer, black-and-white cinematography by Hungarian cinematographer Gábor Medvigy, the fine editing by Ágnes Hranitzky and the way Béla Tarr creates continuity within a quietly paced story where the dialog is sparse, this character-driven neo-noir depicts a condensed and internal study of character and contains a cogent score by Béla Tarr`s frequent collaborator, Hungarian composer Mihály Vig.

This humane, somewhat romantic, unsentimental and contemplative independent film about a lonely man`s struggle for dignity, meaning and love, is impelled by its rigorous narrative structure and the fine acting performances by actress Vali Kerekes, Hungarian-born actor Miklós Székely B. and Hungarian actress Hédi Temessy (1925-2001). A foreboding, poignantly atmospheric and existentialistic drama.
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on 7 February 2015
An interesting film from Hungary with wonderful black and white photography focusing on a small Hungarian town and the relationships therein. It is breathtakingly slow but manages to maintain the interest throughout the period. Worth purchasing and watching if only to escape from the general mind-bending dross of Western cinema.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 13 February 2012
This is best of all his movies, of course, after Satantango. Simple story about human desire, desparation and advance determinated destiny of pure Balcan's loosers. Excellent photography, acting, set and coreography. The one who likes Fassbinder heroes, their destiny and passion and Tarkovsky's technical treatment of art movie (slow camera movement, long takes, a lot of water and dogs) will enjoy. Everydays rains is eroding souls and facade of small hungarian town buildings. Extraordinary last scene. There is no so much hope in Tarr's world. Or ours.
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 24 December 2011
I watched this movie a couple of months ago(download from bitorrent), its just a materpiece so i had to buy it.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 24 February 2015
BOOOOOOOOOORING
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