“With its decaying factories, dingy bars and bleak, expressionistic landscapes, [Damnation] introduced the dark, rainy and irretrievably melancholy realm that is arguably Tarr’s greatest creation.” — Harvard Film Archive

Desolation never felt so lush! A breakthrough work for its director, this post-apocalyptic Eastern European deadpan dirge is the first of Béla Tarr’s films to use his signature long takes, expounding upon the stylistic hallmarks of Tarkovsky and Jarmusch(!) to become one of the most wholly unique film creations of the 1980s. Damnation’s small-town love triangle between a brooding torch singer, her antisocial lover and her criminal spouse is impeccably framed against the backdrop of a silvery, hazy Hungary reduced to both mental and physical rubble. Utilizing a purposefully simple storyline, Tarr expertly wrenches incredible heights of tension out of even the most ordinary of events; in his world, even the simple act of shaving in front of a mirror takes on a Shakespearian gravitas. Likewise, the sparse diegetic music score by regular Tarr collaborator Mihály Vig (featuring lone accordion lines or tormented nightclub ballads) is used to explosive emotional effect, cutting through the on-screen despair to reach transcendent heights. Pointing the way towards Tarr’s magnum opus Satantango, Damnation is a cinema-altering experience forever etched in the minds of all who bear witness.
Dir. Béla Tarr, 1988, 35mm, 116 min.

Watch excerpts from “Damnation”!
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