Unreal Nature

April 7, 2016

Acted Upon by the World

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:47 am

… What the camera is up to is often more riveting and unpredictable than the actions of the characters.

Last post from Slow Movies: Countering the Cinema of Action by Ira Jaffe (2014):

… “I despise stories,” [Tarr] has said, “as they mislead people into believing that something has happened. In fact, nothing really happens as we flee from one condition to another … ”


Tarr’s motionless camera … holds on … stationary subjects for extended intervals: the back of Ohlsdorfer’s bowed head; the daughter’s face at the window; the horse on the barn unwilling to eat or drink. The camera remains stationary as well before subjects in motion, as when the daughter dons her clothes in the dark, cold morning of the saga’s third day. In the two-and-a-half-minute medium-long shot of her getting dressed, The Turin Horse emphasizes, as it does when the father dresses or undresses, the immense time and effort its characters expend on mundane tasks.

… At a symposium devoted to Tarr’s cinema in 2007, Scott Foundas addressed the relation of both Tarr’s camera and his long takes to his characters:

You rarely ever feel in one of his films … that the movment of the camera or the length of the shot is being dictated by anything other than the characters and the physical presence on the screen. The camera is moving with them, is dancing with them, not just when it’s a dancing scene. He is really sort of immersing you in this world.

… Hardly subservient to Tarr’s characters, the camera in The Turin Horse often seems in step with impersonal, perhaps ominous forces such as the darkness, the silence, the windstorm and the desiccation that leave the characters — as Biro would say — “deprived of action.” Tony McKibbin alludes to this camera more than to Scott Foudras’s benign one when he writes that Tarr’s “complicatedly blocked sequence shots seem to take away from his characters any sense of self-imposition.

[line break added] The characters don’t act in the world as much as seem to be acted upon by the world; a decision made is secondary to the forces compelling them.” McKibbin regards the camera in these celebrated sequence shots as being in league with the “malignant environment” oppressing Tarr’s characters. In any case, the camera in such shots attracts spectatorial attention in its own right, apart from the characters.

[line break added] Even though “practically nothing happens” in The Turin Horse,” as Jonathan Rosenbaum has said, the camera’s long-take journeys, here as in other films by Tarr, yield not dead time but keen tension and suspense. What the camera is up to is often more riveting and unpredictable than the actions of the characters.


… Probably the “real psychological process” cited by Tarr pertains not only to his characters but also to spectators of his films, since long takes afford them sustained access to the characters, who are difficult to know.

My most recent previous post from Jaffe’s book is here.




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