We can't claim to be massive fans of everything that Béla Tarr's made; his work can be fascinating, but somewhat trying. But when he's firing on all cylinders, as in "Werckmeister Harmonies," the Hungarian director is an incredibly vital voice in cinema, and even when he's not, his films find a way of indelibly printing themselves on your mind. As such, we were disappointed to learn back in 2008, on the announcement of Tarr's latest project, that it was intended to be his last.
With that film, "The Turin Horse," finally hitting U.S. shores over the weekend for the New York Film Festival (and, per our review, being 'unforgettable'), and Tarr coming for a rare trip to accompany it, the question had to be raised: was the retirement still happening? Had Tarr, like Steven Soderbergh, shifted his language to call it a hiatus? Or was he simply feeling down in the dumps before, and is now moving ahead with new projects?
Sadly, it seems to be the real deal, as FilmLinc report on their blog that the director told a NYFF Q&A that "I'm not a filmmaker anymore," saying that he was planning to open up a film school in Croatia. "I had a feeling the work is done. Ready," Tarr expanded. "No reason to repeat anything, no reason to [make] copies of this language or these feelings, because I want to protect [it]. From myself too. And I really want to give it to you. We created it, take it or leave it. And that's all. And I think it's enough for me."
But it sounds from what he said in the Q&A that he feels like he's gone out on a high, something that our review seemed to agree with. "When I started I was 22, and i spent 34 years [filmmaking] and step by step I wanted to go closer and closer to [a] pure, very minimal movie," Tarr said. "I just wanted to do something which is essential and telling you that life is very simple, full of daily routine but every day is different. You do it always the same but every day differently and your life, mine too, can be weaker and weaker, day by day and by the end just disappear. No apocalypse, no big TV show, nothing. Just disappear. And that's what I wanted to tell you. Like a final sentence."
Sad news indeed, but understandable, and we'll live in hope that he might find the filmmaking itch returning before too long. The film doesn't currently have U.S. distribution, but with it recently being picked as Hungary's official Oscar entry, that hopefully won't remain the case for too long.