DVD Review: The Man From London

The Man from London DVDSTUDIO: KimStim/Zeitgeist | DIRECTOR: Béla Tarr | CAST: Miroslav Krobot, Tilda Swinton, Erika Bók, István Lénárt
BLU-RAY & DVD RELEASE DATE: 1/10/2012 | PRICE: DVD $29.99
SPECS: NR | 132 min. | Foreign language crime drama | 1.66:1 widescreen | stereo | Hungarian, French and English with English subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

Anyone who has never experience the art of Hungarian filmmaker Béla Tarr (Satantango) should pay attention to the opening shot of his 2007 film The Man From London. For a solid 13 minutes, the camera luxuriates in a chiaroscuro worthy of Rembrandt as it moves at a controlled pace back and forth across a small harbor, capturing conspiratorial whisperings, sinister intrigue and rough seamen changing shifts. The shot is as rich with information as it is deliberately and hypnotically mounted.

The Man from London movie scene

Tilda Swinton gets involved in a mystery involving her husband in The Man From London.

Based on the 1934 novel by celebrated Belgian writer Georges Simenon (best known for his “Inspector Maigret” mysteries), The Man From London tells the story of a man named Maloine (Miroslav Krobot), who works in a lighthouse where the railroad meets the shipyard. As he looks out at the infinite possibilities of the sea, his own life is mired in crushing routine: mundane work, a dissatisfied wife (Tilda Swinton, Orlando) and a daughter (Erika Bók) stuck in a demeaning job. His only respite is wordless checker games with the local cafe owner. When Maloine finds a suitcase stuffed with cash, he sees a chance to break free until the ominous forces of a corrupt world begin to close in.

All the acting in the movie is excellent, especially Krobot as Maloine and Swinton in the small but pivotal role of his wife. But acting in a Tarr film is often facial topography as his camera slowly pans weathered visages and buried truths. No Abercrombie & Fitch models here.

Admittedly not for everyone, The Man From London is still one of Tarr’s most accessible films. Additionally, it clocks in at two hours and 10 minutes, which makes it one of his shorter films. (Others have 5-, 6- and even 7-hour running times.) That said, this is a chance for the uninitiated to savor Tarr’s unique stylized filmmaking in a more palliative form. And for those who are fans of the director, this movie is, of course, a must-see.

The DVD has no special features, but we don’t need any.

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About David

David Leopold is an actor, writer and videographer who would take a Sherpa ride up a Tibetan mountain to see an Edwige Feuillère movie.