The magnificently named Béla Tarr is one of Hungary’s most renowned film-makers. With a focus on the unconventional, his films are often experimental; cavorting with non-linear storytelling, thriving on philosophical counterpoints and struggling under a heavy air of pessimism. Whilst much of his best work has been done in black and white, such as the truly epic Sátántangó, Autumn Almanac is a wonderful rare foray into colour.
A wealthy landlady (Hédi Temessy) lives in a crumbling apartment. She’s surrounded by a group of people all vying for her money. There’s her son, János (János Derzsi), whose anger often overtakes him. This is especially the case when Tibor (Pál Hetényi), an elderly alcoholic teacher, riles him just to feel a human touch. Then there’s her nurse, Anna (Erika Bodnár), whose boyfriend (Miklós B. Székely) lives life in perpetual discontentment. The group live in differing stages of emotional torment, trying to somehow abide each other.
Autumn Almanac is stifled in claustrophobic emotions. Photographed in a way to capture this internment, the apartment has an integral influence on the atmosphere of desolation. Tarr’s brilliant use of colour to reflect emotion makes every shot as appetising and varied as a box of chocolates. Autumn Almanac marked a turning point in Tarr’s career and it remains a fascinating study of the human psyche.
Autumn Almanac is released on DVD by Curzon Artificial Eye today.