‘Unforgiving’ is the word that instantly springs to mind when considering the latest work from Hungarian maverick Béla Tarr, a brutalist noir nightmare loosely based on a novel by Belgian crime writer Georges Simenon.
The minutely choreographed opening chapter lethargically unfurls in a single shot as grizzled, introspective lighthouse keeper Maloin (Miroslav Krobot) witnesses a series of criminal escapades on the dockside beneath him, resulting in a man being thrown into the sea and a suitcase full of banknotes left for him to procure.
The remainder of the film is made up of similar gliding, protracted tracking shots, as our ‘hero’ wrestles with his conscience to a discombobulating background cacophony of tapping hammers and an infinitely repeated squeezebox refrain. Those who have caught (and enjoyed) Tarr's metaphysical disaster movie Werckmeister Harmonies or his seven-hour communist allegory Sátántangó should be able to slink into and dissect this new film with relative ease. But it's still a film that demands a colossal amount of persistence and contemplation.
One of Europe's most extraordinary filmmaking talents.
A tough, tough, tough, tough watch. And then some.
It's a thinker, for better and for worse.