Filmmaker & Screenwriter
Born 1955: Hungary
Béla Tarr is a Hungarian film director, screenwriter, and former actor.
Tarr has said that he originally wanted to be a philosopher, and he considered filmmaking as something of a hobby. However, after making his 8mm short films, the Hungarian government would not allow Tarr to attend the university. So he was forced to make films instead.
His amateur work brought him to the attention of the Béla Balázs Studios (named in honor of the Hungarian cinema theorist, Béla Balázs), which helped fund Tarr's 1977 feature debut Családi tűzfészek (Family Nest) at the age of 22. Tarr shot the film without any budget with non-professional actors (participating in the film only by "friendship" and without any salary) and on original locations in six days. The film was faithful to the "Budapest School" or "documentarist" style popular at the time within Béla Balázs Studios, maintaining absolute social-realism on screen.
After completing "Családi tűzfészek" Tarr began his studies in the Hungarian School of Theatrical and Cinematic Arts. The 1980 piece Szabadgyalog (The Outsider) and the following year's Panelkapcsolat (The Prefab People) continued in much the same vein with smaller changes in style. The latter was the first film by Tarr to feature professional actors in the leading roles. With a 1982 television adaptation of Macbeth, his work began to change dramatically; comprised of only two shots, the first shot (before the main title) was five minutes long, with the second 57 minutes in length. Not only did Tarr's visual sensibility move from raw close-ups to more abstract mediums and long shots, but also his philosophical sensibility shifted from grim realism to a more metaphysical outlook similar to that of Andrei Tarkovsky. Tarr himself considers Rainer Werner Fassbinder as his main influence and idol.
After 1984's Őszi almanach (Almanac of Fall), Tarr (who had written his first four features alone) began collaborating with Hungarian novelist László Krasznahorkai for 1988's Kárhozat (Damnation). A planned adaptation of Krasznahorkai's epic novel Satantango took over seven years to realize. The 415-minute film finally appeared to international acclaim in 1994. After the epic he released a 35-minute film Journey on the Plain in 1995 and fell into silence until the 2000 film Werckmeister Harmóniák (Werckmeister Harmonies), occasionally shot in very intense circumstances. Many if not most of the shots in these later films are up to eleven minutes long. It may take months to do a single shot. The camera swoops, glides, and soars. It circles the characters, it moves from scene to scene. It may, as in Satantango, travel with a herd of cows around a village, or follow the nocturnal peregrinations of an obese agoraphobic drunk who is forced to leave his house because he's run out of booze. Susan Sontag championed Tarr as one of the saviors of the modern cinema, saying she would gladly watch Satantango once a year.
Tarr has joked that the Kodak 11 minute roll of film is a form of censorship.