After witnessing a crime during his night shift as railway switchman near the docks, a man finds a briefcase full of money. While he and his family step up their living standards, others start looking for the disappeared case.
One night Maloin, a switchman at a seaside railway station situated by a ferry harbor, witnesses a terrible event. He is just watching the arrival of the last ferry at night from his control room on top of a high iron traverse from where he can see the whole bay. Suddenly he notices that the first of the disembarking passengers, a tall thin figure (a certain Brown as it will turn out later) leaves the harbor, but not on the usual route: after getting through customs, he goes around the dock and then withdraws into a dark corner, waiting. Opposite him, in front of the ship, another man soon appears and throws a suitcase towards the man on the shore. He goes and picks it up, then waits in an dark corner for the other man to join him. When he arrives, however, they begin to quarrel and finally, in the course of the vehement fight, due to a hit that turns out to be fatal, the shorter one falls in the water and sinks, clutching the suitcase in his hand. Maloin is watching the scene, ...Written by
Bela Tarr - I could clearly imagine the port, but since Hungary's have no port at any sea, I had to go out and search of a suitable location and settled on the old port of Bastia in Corsica. See more »
When Maloin and the bartender set up the chessboard and pieces for their daily game, they place the board with a black square in the lower right corner. (The baseball equivalent would be to have the catcher and batter set up at first base instead of home plate!) See more »
Apparently what some consider "pretentious rubbish"...
...others find fascinating and beautiful. Yes, it's a Béla Tarr film, and as such, it will contain extremely long shots and a ponderous, deliberate storyline. If that's not your cup of tea, then why bother? Buy a ticket to the next Mission Impossible or Bourne Identity.
This film is Tarr's homage to the film noirs of old. Shot in shadowy, low-key black and white, the story concerns a murder, a recovered briefcase full of money, and a slow descent into despondence and guilt. Miroslav Krobot is wonderfully morose as Maloin, the dock worker who witnesses the murder and retrieves the money, and Tilda Swinton is superb as usual as his high-strung wife, but the real star of the film is the cinematography.
Again, like of all of Tarr's work, this is a stylized, demanding film. The first shot lasted nearly 15 minutes, but within that one shot, we bear witness, along with Maloin, to events that drive the narrative of the film. It's as if, perched high in his railway tower, he's seated alongside us in a theater box, watching a deadly play. For a filmmaker to place so much significance in its visual aesthetics, the camera work has to be expert, and cinematographer Fred Kelemen proves up to the task, painting everything in a brooding chiaroscuro. It truly is a mesmerising, strangely compelling, even somewhat alienating piece of work, and a treat for the viewer who can afford it the patience.
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