Hungarian filmmaker Béla Tarr is considered by many to be one of the pioneers of the slow cinema genre. Over the course of his brilliant career, Tarr has conducted transgressive experiments with the cinematic medium. The most notable one out of those is his 1994 epic Sátántangó, a seven hour chronicle of the overwhelming suffering and anguish prevalent in a Hungarian village.
In 2004, an anthology consisting of 25 shorts made by 25 different filmmakers was released. Titled Visions of Europe, it was described as a “collective and collaborative anthologies are made across national boundaries, across cultures, bringing together a group of filmmakers to interpret and express a common theme.” The anthology was an attempt to create a transnational cinematic experience, featuring works by directors from around the world.
Tarr, in his segment which was called Prologue, explored a very simple premise. The film is nothing but a dolly shot which goes on for five minutes, panning across the defeated faces of people waiting in a terribly long line for some food. Through this disheartening act of gliding through the waters of poverty and disillusionment, Tarr forces the audience to confront the harsh realities that haunt people from socio-economically marginalised communities.
In an interview, Tarr explained: “I can see there is a big confusion and people are not finding themselves because the market has very strong expectations, and of course, their personal ambitions could be different. And this is what I see now, young filmmakers are really not brave enough. They have to be brave and do not care about any expectations because the expectations are vanishing but the films remain.”
He also commented on his aspirations for the next generation of artists, insisting that he wanted them to take risks in order to achieve their artistic visions: “I am one of the most radical filmmakers and my problem is…with my kids, I am always screaming at them ‘Hey, be more radical than me!’ And then it will be fine. This what I can say to young filmmakers ‘Go and be more radical, be more revolutionary than I was.'”
Watch Béla Tarr’s 2004 mini-documentary titled Prologue below.