Far from Hollywood productions, Bela Tarr sees the poor and humble

Bela Tarr’s films may not appeal to a wider viewing public accustomed to Hollywood productions. But this director does deserve attention. In his «Werckmeister Harmonies,» the Hungarian’s latest work, whose local screenings began on Easter Sunday, many viewers are already discovering a little masterpiece. Tarr, who was recently in Greece for the film’s local premiere, answered a series of questions about filmmaking. «At the age of 22, when I made my first film, I was seeing silly films with silly dialogues and silly actors. These films were full of lies,» Tarr recalled, referring to Hollywood productions he had seen during his formative years. When asked to compare his work with your typically formularized, risk-free Hollywood production, Tarr responded: «What Hollywood does is none of my business. But many people in the filmmaking business there do love their jobs.» Two of these, the directors Jim Jarmusch and Gus Van Sant, are fans of Tarr’s work, while the actor Brad Pitt has apparently expressed interest in viewing some of the Hungarian’s work. «I received a phone call from Brad Pitt’s secretary who said he would be interested in seeing my films because he’d heard good words about them,» Tarr said. As for his individual approach to filmmaking, Tarr noted: «I began making films with a 16mm camera on black-and-white film and actors who would improvise because I wanted to project reality exactly as it is.» Tarr said that as a younger artist he applied absolute realism to his work, feeling that the approach could act as a stimulus for change in the world. «I didn’t want to knock on the door, I wanted to knock it down. Now I know that I can’t change the world,» noted Tarr. «But I’d be happy if I could make some changes to the language of film and the way in which we think,» he added. Preliminary work for his next film, Tarr said, which involved traveling to various locations, unveiled worrying signs of the negative impact of mankind’s progress and its related, wider quest for fortune. «As part of preparations for my next film, I traveled to most of Europe’s ports and saw the same picture everywhere – dead fish and oil spills,» he remarked. «I am interested in the poor and humble because nobody talks about them.» His work depicts a humble nature, too. Tarr’s films are lengthy in duration, shot in black-and-white, their direction and photography are immaculately executed, and the action is minimal. «I know exactly what I want and create a fuss until I get it. I prefer black-and-white because it’s more colorful than color film. I don’t like Kodak’s color. Its blue isn’t blue. I focus better with black-and-white. Too much color breaks my concentration,» the director explained. Commenting on «Werckmeister Harmonies» (starring Lars Rudolph, Peter Fitz and Hanna Schygulla) and its references to a world placed between harmony and chaos, Tarr noted: «The piano has ivory keys and ebony, the semi-tones. To hit a C-sharp or D-flat you only need one key, which acts as a compromise. There’s no piano with just ‘clean’ keys. In this world we need ‘clean’ voices but can’t find them. The stories told in the films aren’t important. The important thing is the film itself. How am I supposed to explain a particular scene? That’s precisely why I make films. Because I want to shows things to the world which I am unable to discuss. The audience is more intelligent and sensitive than I am. I don’t look at viewers as children. I don’t want to give them cheap stories. I believe that they do understand everything.» Tarr doesn’t consider his films to be pessimistic. «There’s great hope for the future. If two people manage to come into contact, then there’s hope. Human ties are more powerful than interests. Emerging from ‘Werckmeister Harmonies,’ I believe that viewers will feel hope,» Tarr said. On his impressions of Greek film, Tarr noted that local filmmakers lacked an educational background. «I was left feeling stunned by the fact that there is no film academy in Greece,» Tarr said. «How can one make films if learning hasn’t preceded it? Rejection of one’s education afterward is irrelevant.»

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