The Man from London

2007

Crime / Drama / Mystery

71
IMDb Rating 7.1 10 3,636

Synopsis


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October 12, 2020

Director

Cast

Tilda Swinton as Emma Recchi
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1.24 GB
1280*720
English 2.0
NR
23.976 fps
139 min
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2.31 GB
1920×1080
English 2.0
NR
23.976 fps
139 min
P/S N/A / N/A

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Chris_Docker 10 / 10 / 10

Quality cinema that forces us to look at the art form in a different way (even if you're patience is tried in the doing so)

When you were a kid, did you ever hear the phrase, "You'll understand when you're older"? This weighty, grinding, almost intimidatingly lugubrious film from iconic filmmaker Béla Tarr may make you cringe in your seat as if it is all just too awful to understand. The Man From London is interminable hours of the most hauntingly composed black and white photography you could see for a long time. There's slow symbolism dense enough to sink the Titanic. You'd beg them to crank the movie faster, but daren't in case it's a masterpiece. As a stylistic exercise it leaves you gasping, but working it all out is another matter. There's a Wagnerian majesty to it. A dignity that defies intellectual comprehension. At least until it has had time to sink in at a deeper level. The opening shot made me think of that boat that ferried the dead across the River Styx. We see the hull of the ship. It is drained of colour and sunlight. Eventually waves of darkness drift down across the screen like eyelids closing. We are forced to contemplate it. The shimmer of lamplight on the damp dockside. Looking out through the lattice squares of a window, train lines frame the noirish scene. Low key lighting and oblique angles evoke a sense of dread. We have panned back to take in more of the ship in the desolate jetty. This could be somewhere in Eastern Europe. Somewhere you pull your coat collar around you tight to keep out the damp, dank feelings permeating everything. Somewhere you'd rather not be alone. Diagonal foreground lines of an overcoat collar intersect our view. We look over the shoulder of someone (Maloin) watching the scene below. There, men dressed in black woollen overcoats and hats. Only their faces highlighted. Steam issuing from between the wheels of a waiting train. A wordless conspiracy over a suitcase. Feel the cold, clammy atmosphere of undetermined threat. The Man from London proceeds not at the speed of hell freezing over. More like a hell frozen over long ago and never to thaw. Ever. A place from which there is no escape. A god-forsaken wasteland. The plot, what there is of it, is taken from a story by Simenon. It involves the discovery of a suitcase of money that railway switchman Maolin fishes out of the drink. The corpse comes later. The dosh was stolen. But the mystery, while satisfyingly concluded in its own good time, is little more than a pretext. Enigmatic justice dispensed by a police inspector takes our mind off to unexpected pathways. Hope, hopelessness, redemption (and without any simplistic religious overtones). Justice and humanity. But the real power of the film is in its formalist rejection of cinematic convention. There is a plot, but it is not plot-driven. The landscape, the bare-furnished rooms, are all protagonists, as much as the sullen and uncommunicative characters. The cinematography cuts the air like a Baltic ice-axe and supports the film's main theses. We first see Tilda Swinton, Maloin's wife, almost as a hidden part of this surly man's own persona. The camera pans up slowly from behind Maloin, revealing her slight figure as she sits opposite him. In another scene, she goes to the window and is totally engulfed by sunshine for a brief second until she closes the shutters to let him sleep. Inside Maolin and his humdrum existence is hope for dignity, for something better. But it seems so unlikely that he can barely face the possibility. Precisely focused shots draw attention to tiny, grimy detail (often further enhanced by use of 'chiaroscuro' deep-shadows lighting). The grain of wood or the lines on skin, or even fingernails. We feel Maloin's almost invincible acceptance of his lot at a painfully deep level. Compositions have the breathtaking precision and deliberateness of such Tarkovsky masterpieces as Andrei Rublev, but with the megalithic slowness that is one of Tarr's trademarks. Apart from forcing us to contemplate much more deeply than we are used to in a world of fast-moving, CGI-enhanced cinema, the slowing-down reveals other interesting effects. In one scene, there is a long, unmoving head-shot of the murderer's wife under questioning. She says nothing for several minutes, but we see the gradual build-up of emotion in her features (the scene is reminiscent of Andy Warhol's Screen Tests, which are fortuitously exhibiting in the Edinburgh Festival at the same time as the UK premiere of The Man From London). The forlorn beauty of The Man From London might inspire you to question the assumptions we make about cinema, instilling a deeper appreciation of the aesthetic possibilities of this wondrous art form. Or you may leave disenchanted, claiming that, however wonderful the characterisation and deep-stage photography exhibition might be, it seems rather less than the sum of its parts. Either way, the coldness of the atmosphere will have eaten into you to such an extent that you long for a bowl of hot soup or a mug of warming coffee. Your body wants to escape the implacable struggles and silences, the constant dirge-like accordion, the austere minimalism, and dialogue designed as much for its audio qualities as its content. And if you do, I hope, like me, you will look back and treasure what you might almost dismiss.

Reviewed by paulmartin-2 10 / 10 / 10

Stylish, visually compelling cinema - an ode to noir

I saw this at a sold-out screening at the Melbourne International Film Festival and was surprised at how good it was, considering I'd heard some negative or indifferent murmurs about it. It goes to show that you never can judge a film until you've seen it yourself. This is my first Béla Tarr film. The Man From London is clearly a highly stylised homage to film noir of the 1940s. The lush black and white photography, using classic noir shadows and imagery is a feast for the eyes. The camera work is slow, fluid and dynamic, with very long takes in which little seems to happen. Combined with a mesmerising score slightly reminiscent of Angelo Badalamenti's sounds on Twin Peaks, a mood of ever-growing suspense and menace is created that powerfully engages from start to finish. The basic premise of the film is that Maloin, a night harbour worker (played by Miroslav Krobot) witnesses some treachery between a disembarking passenger of a ship (the man in the title) and another man on-shore. A death may have occurred and when Maloin investigates, he becomes involved in an intrigue from which he cannot extricate himself. Tilda Swinton plays Maloin's wife, though her voice is dubbed over in Hungarian. The film was part-English produced, so maybe a name known to English-speaking audiences was required to market the film. The role was small, and I always find Swinton an interesting actor, so it was a curiosity to see her in this role. In general the tired and worn-out characters looked terrific on film, with a timeless quality that matched the aesthetics of the decaying town. This is not a film for everyone, as it requires some patience and appreciation for aesthetics over action, and there is not a whole lot of the latter. While the film's major strength is its visuals, they serve to subtly drive the slow-burn suspense. I was surprised when people started walking out of the film, first one by one, then after an hour about twenty or so walked out in unison. I estimate 60 people left, around 10% of the audience. I was equally surprised that so few walked out of Inland Empire (I counted only four, about 1% of the also sold-out screening a few nights earlier). Still, what's a good film or a good film festival without walk-outs? Many of my favourite films have had them. I have read that this is not one of Tarr's best films. Well, I loved it and must seek out his others.

Reviewed by MacAindrais 10 / 10 / 10

Tarr's Noir

The Man from London (2007) **** After 7 years Bela Tarr makes his return with an adaptation of a Georges Simenon's story. That Tarr has chosen to make an adaptation of a noir novel means that he has chosen to make his own, very unique take on film noir. That in itself has created one of the first rifts that has become evident in the criticism the film has received from fans of Tarr's previous films. The film opens with a slow pan up from the water to the bow of a ship. The camera slowly climbs up and through the hatch of a watch tower. We stop behind Maloin (Miroslav Krabot) as he watches a conversation between two men on the ship. The camera follows as they leave. One of the men meets someone else on the docks and they get into an argument, and eventually a fight. One falls in the water, taking a case with him that had been thrown from the ship to the other man, Brown. Brown, stunned that the man isn't resurfacing, takes off. Maloin watches, then goes down and fishes the case from the water. He discovers that it is full of money and then meticulously dries out each bill. This sets up the plot to which the rest of the film will adhere. This is the first major departure from classical Tarr films. The film is dedicated to this plot and the affect the money and crime has on Maloin. After stopping at the pub for a drink Maloin walks home through a beautifully framed alleyway. He sees a young woman mopping the floor, her dress barely covering her behind. We think he must be gawking, only to discover that he is angry that she, his daughter, is forced to mop the floors at work where everyone can "look at her arse." He hides the money from her and his wife, played by British actress Tilda Swinton. Tarr creates a surprising amount of tension through out the film. Brown, watches Maloin leave his tower and assumes he must know something. He will follow Maloin for much of the rest of the movie. In the aforementioned scene in the ally, we think the camera might stay with Maloin's daughter (Erika Bok) but it only stops to look, and then whip back as we discover Brown is following. Mihaly Vig's excellent score and the slow, very deliberate camera movements work wonderfully. One particular scene, which done by any one else, may have came across as quite conventional, but the way it is shot and the brooding score transcend it - Maloin awakes from sleep, he walks to the window, , and looks out. Far below on the street is Brown standing in the only lit spot, under a lamp post. He stands there while the camera slowly zooms in. He then walks off. The film is filled with many transcending moments, and the camera while moving in typical Tarr fashion, also I think is different in a very important way. In Tarr's other films, the camera moves along as a participant. In The Man from London, the camera is simply an observer. This point is evident in one pivotal scene where Maloin will walk into his shed to confront someone while the camera is forced to wait outside. Long takes and slow movements follow the actors wherever they go. Swinton is captured in one particularly beautiful shot as she is totally absorbed into sunlight light, creating an almost ghostly image. Edits are said to be events in themselves in Tarr's films because they occur so rarely. The fades and extended black screens between takes, though different from his other work, I think work perfectly to capture a distinct mood. It is important that the acting in the film be mentioned. Though all performances are good, perhaps the best comes from Brown's wife, who has only a few lines of dialog. She is confronted by the police inspector who knows that Brown stole the money and has committed murder since the body has now washed up. The camera stays on her face for several minutes as the inspector describes her husband's crimes and what she must do. She displays such a disciplined level of sadness that is truly incredible. No reaction shot has ever seemed so real or so affecting. Criticisms I think are based in that the film is so similar in style to Tarr's other films that is somewhat confusing to accept that this is essentially a different film. Tarr claims to be making the same film over and over, but there is a very different tone here. He is essentially making film noir. Many have argued that this is a minor work. I disagree. I think this is a very accomplished piece of film. I truly believe that it will be widely accepted as a great film given time. I don't necessarily think that it is as good as Werckmeister Harmonies, or Satantango, but I think it is overall better than Damnation. That said, I must say that I've loved all of Tarr's films. Of course there are simply those who cannot handle Tarr's endurance test films. One woman declared loudly that it was the worst film she's ever seen. I think this woman needs to see more films. Tarr makes films outside all convention, and I think that The Man from London is outside of his thus far established work. Any great filmmaker will be judged against his previous work, which I think is a shame. Each film should stand on its own merits, and this has not been the case with The Man from London. Herein lays the answer to its criticisms. If you see this film, forget all you know about film, even Tarr's. Sit, and wallow in the film's magnificent black and white shadowy cinematography; allow yourself to become nothing more than what the camera is asking you to.

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