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"The Man from London" by Béla Tarr

Hungarian director Béla Tarr, a guest of the Cannes Festival in 2000 for the presentation of Werckmeister Harmonies in the parallel section, is competing for a Palme d'Or this year with his new feature, The Man from London. Adapted from a mystery novel of the same name by genre maestro Georges Simenon, it's the story of how the life of a solitary man, played by actor Miroslav Krobot, becomes a nightmare when he witnesses a murder. He finds himself confronted with sin, ethics, and punishment, torn by his position on the line between innocence and complicity. As a natural skeptic, he begins to reflect upon the meaning of life and the purpose of existence.

The film, which also stars Tilda Swinton, touches upon the indestructible human desire for life, liberty, and happiness, illusions that never come true, and the insignificant things that are a source of energy to us, keeping us going, day after day. Maloin's history could belong to any one of us, to anyone who has ever entertained doubts about his or her humdrum existence. "If I have to say why I like and was drawn to this story," Bela Tarr speculated, "the direct answer is that it deals with the eternal and the everyday at one and the same time. It deals with the cosmic and the realistic, the divine and the human, and to my mind, contains the totality of nature and man, just as it contains their pettiness." 

 

Press conference: 

 

In the press room, journalists were able to question Béla Tarr, director of The Man from London, presented In Competition today. Also on hand to meet the press were actors Miroslav Krobot, Tilda Swinton, Ági Szirtes, János Derzsi, and István Lénárt, co-director and film editor Ágnès Hranitzky, producer Gábor Téni, and John Simenon, the son of Georges Simenon, author of the novel on which the film is based.

Béla Tarr on the death of producer Humbert Balsan in mid-shooting: "This film had been in gestation for quite a long time. The worst setback was the loss of producer Humbert Balsan. Not only was it a tragedy for the production, it was also traumatic for us as individuals: we lost a friend, a courageous and sensitive man, who had always fought for cinema. For that reason, we dedicated the film to him. It took us a long time to recover and get back to work, and I want to thank all those who helped us. No one jumped ship, despite the crises. We're very grateful for this friendship and solidarity."

John Simenon on the adaptation: "It's the first time I've ever seen an adaptation of one of my father's novels where the viewer is able to get inside the mind and thinking of the character. It corresponds perfectly to what my father was trying to do with his writing."

Béla Tarr on his intentions: "The thing that interested me about this story is that it's the story of a human being, above all. The reader's interest is aroused, not by the money, or the suitcase, but by human dignity."

Tilda Swinton on how modern the film is: "Anyone interested in modern cinema, anyone seeking out the cinema of tomorrow, should study all the films Béla Tarr has made, and especially this film. The energy it contains is what makes this film modern."

On the contribution of film editor and co-director Agnès Hranitzky
Ágnès Hranitzky: "My work doesn't merely consist of splicing shots together. I'm there from the beginning of the process until the end. I try to give support to Béla."
Miroslav Krobot: "The work they do together is decisive. She watches everything, and says something if a cut is needed… It's a very deep relationship. They conceive of everything as a pair."

Tilda Swinton on having her voice dubbed: "I found this work very interesting. As a child, I was fascinated by Fellini's films, in which different languages are spoken. In The Man from London,  there were scenes when I had to shout in English, while Miroslav shouted in Czech and Béla was speaking to us in Hungarian. For a film that's about how hard it is for humans to communicate, it was ideal."

 

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