The Man from London

Directed by
Béla Tarr
Ágnes Hranitzky (co-director)

Georges Simenon (novel)

Béla Tarr (screenplay) &
László Krasznahorkai (screenplay)

Miroslav Krobot … Maloin
Tilda Swinton … Camélia
Ági Szirtes … Mrs. Brown
János Derzsi … Brown
Erika Bók … Henriette
Gyula Pauer … Tapster
István Lénárt … Morrison
Kati Lázár … Butcher’s Wife

Noir – permeated by a feeling of disillusionment, pessimism, and despair. contrasty lighting and often somewhat impenetrable plots, The term typically refers to some movies produced and released during the 1940s and 1950s. The basic premise of film noir is to create a dark film that can fit into any category. By definition, there could be a comedy that is also considered film noir. American film noir is usually based on crime stories that emphasize sexual desires and low moral values. Characters are morally ambivalent and often have strange, erotic and even cruel characteristics. Film noir also tends to have a dreamlike quality,


Focus on the lightning in the film. Classic film noir is typically filmed in black and white. However, newer films, like Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo,” are also considered film noir. Film noir uses techniques such as low-key lighting, which helps the director achieve drastic light and dark contrasts that can change from scene to scene. Another classic lighting technique in film noir is shadowing. Sometimes the actor’s faces are almost completely shadowed by darkness to give an impression that they are trying to hide something. To achieve dreamlike effects, directors use camera angles like Dutch angles, low-angle shots and wide-angle shots, which make characters look larger than life or a bit distorted. Mirrors and other effects are also used to make faces look different.

Watch the characters closely. Film noir characters are very complex. Some critics and viewers would even go so far as to call them “broken heroes” with something to prove. The main character is often a hero in their own right, but usually quite damaged. Male characters tend to hold the belief that the “end justifies the means.” Film noir usually have of a private eye and a sort of femme fatale. However, film noir has developed into a category that also includes a variety of strong characters, including tortured artists, insurance salesmen, crooked cops and even jealous husbands.

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Consider the plot. Film noir is dark and tends to show an extremely pessimistic view of people and society. Characters end up in situations that are unwanted, yet somehow those situations are indirectly created by the characters themselves. Although film noir tends to be dark and dreary, the characters often have an endearing quality. The plot often focuses on something that we wish we could do in real life, or it portrays how average people deal with extraordinary circumstances.

Watch the film more than once. There is no way to understand a film noir the first time through. Most film noirs are full of symbolism, both obvious and subtle. As such, it takes more than one viewing to pick up on all the details. Everything done in a film noir is done for a reason, and directors expect viewers to catch subtle clues that help explain why characters do what they do and why they are placed in these situations.

Original Music by Mihály Vig, Cinematography by Fred Kelemen ( a former Tarr student)

forlorn beauty, Wagnerian pacing, each scene takes as long as it does.

Tarr has called this film “a tragedy in black and white” .

The film opens with a twelve minute long shot as the camera slowly pans up from the water to the bow of a ship. The camera slowly climbs up and through the hatch of a watch tower. We stop behind Maloin (Miroslav Krabot) as he watches a conversation between two men on the ship. The camera follows as they leave. One of the men meets someone else on the docks and they get into an argument, and eventually a fight. One falls in the water, taking a case with him that had been thrown from the ship to the other man, Brown. Brown, stunned that the man isn’t resurfacing, takes off. Maloin watches, then goes down and fishes the case from the water. He discovers that it is full of money and then meticulously dries out each bill.

The plot, what there is of it, is taken from a story by Simenon. It involves the discovery of a suitcase of money that railway switchman Maolin fishes out of the drink. The corpse comes later. The dosh was stolen. But the mystery, while satisfyingly concluded in its own good time, is little more than a pretext. Enigmatic justice dispensed by a police inspector takes our mind off to unexpected pathways. Hope, hopelessness, redemption (and without any simplistic religious overtones). Justice and humanity. But the real power of the film is in its formalist rejection of cinematic convention. There is a plot, but it is not plot-driven. The landscape, the bare-furnished rooms, are all protagonists, as much as the sullen and uncommunicative characters.

sense of forboeding and menace throughout tension

camera is an unblinking observer in long, slow, takes. Never more so than when Maloin walks to his his shed, unlocks the door, walks in to confront someone while the camera is forced to wait outside staring at the door that Maloin has closed behind him. Eventually, still in the same unmoving shot, the door opens and Maloin walks out. We have to wait to find out later what happened inside. This is brilliant film making, showing a closed door yet all the while building tension and expectation to near breaking point while showing nothing but a wooden door. Furthermore, this is an illustration of one of the themes of the film that the antagonist of this film can be seen as time itself. Time is a monster, slowly sucking away at characters who have long become mechanical, alienated and resigned to fate, a fate from which Maloin seeks to escape.

decor and ambiance is classic film noir, high contrast lighting,long shadows in the night, a crime, a moral dilemma, a prowling police inspector

Comparison has been made bewteen Mrs. Brown and Anna Schmid, Harry Lime’s mistress in The Third Man (Carol Reed, 1949). Both women were used to entrap the man they loved. Both women, in the last images of the films, refuse compensation and disappear, dignity intact.

In the end Maloin seeks redemption by turning himself in. At the end of the film life continues for Maloin and Mrs. Brown though it will never be the same.

Temptation Harbour( Lance Comfort, released in 1947),

l’homme de londres (Henri Decoin, 1943)