Almanac of Fall (Öszi almanach) (1984)

BELA TARR

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.  Hungary, 1984.  Screenplay by Béla Tarr.  Cinematography by Buda Gulyás, Sándor Kardos, Ferenc Pap.  Music by Mihály Vig.  Production Design by Ágnes Hranitzky, Gyula Pauer.  Costume Design by Gyula Pauer.  Film Editing by Ágnes Hranitzky.  

Bela Tarr takes us inside a magnificent but crumbling apartment and examines the intimate lives of the characters who live within it.  At first we are not told who they all are, but as we gradually piece the relationships together, it essentially boils down to a tale of a conflict between a mother and son, the interference of his unreliable father, and the love life of the maid who lives with them.  Dramatically photographed in a series of beautifully colourful scenes, it’s like watching a play while sitting on the stage, up close and personal with the actors as they whisper devastating secrets to each other in lengthy, wordy conversations.  The actors are solid but their interaction is all secrets and feelings and not much philosophy, this isn’t Ingmar Bergman bandying about with the bigger questions about life, and as a result of this, and the fact that we get close to people we never really get to know all that well, it can be something of a tiring experience.  No doubt a great deal of the film’s story content and dialogue apply to a context that only the film’s native Hungarian viewers will find relevant, for the rest of us it’s a passably interesting melodrama.

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