Damnation | Chicago Reader


One of Susan Sontag's favorite films, and it's easy to see why (1987). People who don't have much use for the existential gloom of Antonioni and Tarkovsky are advised to stay away, because many of the hallmarks of their relentless black-and-white style and vision—lots of rain, fog, and stray dogs; murky and decaying bars; artfully composed long takes made up of very slow and almost continuous camera movements; offscreen mechanical noises—are so forcefully present that the gloom almost seems like a fetish. The rather bare story line in the middle of this—a reclusive loner (Miklos Szekely) is hopelessly in love with a cabaret singer (Vali Kerekes), hopes to find salvation in her, and gets her husband involved in a smuggling scheme so he can spend some time with her—seems almost secondary to the formal beauty of Tarr's spellbinding arabesques spun around the dingiest of all possible industrial outposts. The near miracle is that something so compulsively watchable can be made out of a setting and society that seem so depressive and petrified.

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