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This impressive first film by Hungarian auteur Bela Tarr heralded the arrival of one of late 20th century cinema's most compelling and original voices. Shot in a cinema verite style, the film captures the lives of an ordinary family in a broken society. The housing shortage in Communist-ruled Hungary forces a young couple to live with the husband's parents in a cramped, one-room apartment. The proximity of too many people in too small a space leads to tireless arguments and a feeling of unending hopelessness. In Hungarian with English subtitles. Bela Tarr---Hungary---1977---100 mins.
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Bela Tarr's debut film is perhaps one of the all time great debut films. Tarr, for those who don't know his name, is one of the most uncompromising directors to come out of Eastern Europe. He shoots his films in black and white, takes long unbroken camera shots, his work is usually compared to Tarkovsky and Antonioni for this reason and his films slow pace. Some of his major films include "Santantango" and "Damnation".
In "Family Nest" though none of his usual characteristics are present. Yes the film is shoot in black and white but the movie does not have the long uncompromising camera shots if anything the film resembles the work of Cassavetes who clearly inspired this film. And I think Cassavetes inspired his other film "The Prefab People".
"Family Nest" has so many moments where I found myself able to relate to the characters onscreen that it is unlike any other film I have seen in recent times.
The plot is not that complex. It is rather straight forward. Iren and Laci, a married couple with a daughter, are having problems after Laci returns home from the army. Iren and her daughter have been living with Laci's father, which already has too many people living in it.
The couple wants to get their own place but soon Laci's father starts to question Iren about whether or not see has been faithful to his son.
Tarr doesn't heistant to show these characters bad sides. He's not trying to make a "pretty" film. He's trying to show the hardships of family life and married life. Things are not always perfect. Sometimes people corrupt our minds when there was nothing there to corrupt, but, that's life.
Even though this film doesn't resemble Tarr's later films, at least as far as style goes, it still ranks as one of his greatest films. All Bela Tarr fans should make an effort to see it.
Bottom-line: One of Bela Tarr's best films. "Family Nest" is an uncompromising look at family and married life. The movies does not hold back but tries to present an accurate picture of a modern family and succeeds in showing us the movies are sometimes capable of displaying real people with real problems we, as an audience, can relate to.
What makes Family Nest so masterful is director writer/director Béla Tarr's skill at suggesting layers of emotion, commentary and meaning through cinematography and staging. For example, early in the film there is an extended scene of the family that is the film's focus eating dinner in their crowded apartment with some friends. Tarr has the camera crammed in a small room with the cast, necessitating that almost the entire scene is shot in close-ups. There are numerous conversations and an increasing amount of bickering occurring simultaneously. The viewer cannot escape a sense of claustrophobia and chaos. Later in the scene, Tarr trains his camera on the family's television, which is showing a news story about communism. There is irony between the ideological foundations necessary for communism and what we see occurring among just this one small group.
As the film progresses, Tarr treats us to many more ironies and juxtapositions, such as the overbearing father's distorted view of his sons versus their "true nature", a carnival versus addiction and sickness, and the futility of government housing policy versus the practical requirements for keeping a husband and wife together.
Some scenes--and especially the final two shots, last far longer than many viewers will be accustomed to, but through such unusual techniques, Tarr manages to "dig in" to emotional and dramatic spaces that could not otherwise be reached. Like much of his work, it suggests a reconceptualization of what cinema can do and how it can do it.