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Practical Advice From Béla Tarr: A Dispatch From Reykjavik

Practical Advice From Béla Tarr: A Dispatch From Reykjavik

Judging by statements made by Hungarian filmmaker Béla Tarr at the 8th annual Reykjavik Film Festival, the filmmaker lives for contradiction.

Tarr received the festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award, but he opened the Q&A following a screening of “The Turin Horse” by thanking everyone “for coming to waste their time.”

Tarr says he regards himself as more of a philosopher than a filmmaker, the former of which was his original aspiration. When he began his filmmaking career at 22, he was “full of anger” and thought the world was “fake and full of lies.” He decided that he had to do something and not “to politely knock on the door (of artistic boundaries), but to tear it down.”

That said, he says he isn’t concerned with being an artist, telling a story, establishing characters, conveying morals, creating drama or any of the traditional expectations of a filmmaker; by his estimation, that falls in the category of “stupid lies.”

During a Q&A, he was asked if his work is a ‘non-cinema’ or ‘anti-cinema.’ Tarr’s reply: “It is either more than cinema or less than cinema: you decide.”

When asked why he prefers generally to work in black-and-white, he said that colors now have too much color; “they feel fake.” Black-and-white, he believes, carries a legitimacy of vision.

Tarr creates a film’s music before shooting begins, regarding music as a main character, “just like the setting and the landscape have a face.” As he favors lengthy but sporadic monologues, he relies on music, rather than dialogue, to create tension.

He also discards the script as soon as he has the financing, saying he does not want his actors to act but simply to be, caring more about the personality of the actor than the character.

Icelandic President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson hands a joyful Béla Tarr his Lifetime Achievement Award [Photo by Alena Chinault]

Tarr says “The Turin Horse” is his last film because he “does not want to repeat himself and has said what he wants to say,” so he must “protect his work from himself.” Rather than risk recycling any of his ideas, he plans to open a film school in Croatia.

However, Tarr’s advice to aspiring filmmakers is as sensible as they come: “Be yourself; find your style, your way; find the border and cross it, or else you may be lost or, even worse, boring. Don’t forget what you really want to say; there is no recipe. The recipe is you.”

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