Bela Tarr: 'I Don't Want to Be A Stupid Filmmaker Who Is Just Repeating Himself'

On the sidelines of the Reykjavik International Film Festival, the Hungarian filmmaker explains why he gave up movies and sounds off on some aspects of the film business.

Hungarian filmmaker Bela Tarr (Damnation, Satan's Tango, The Man from London) received an honorary award for lifetime achievement at the Reykjavik International Film Festival in Iceland this week. Known for his long, uninterrupted single camera takes, he has had a cineaste following at home and abroad. His seven-hour-plus Satan’s Tango and other works in black-and-white are often counterpoints to Hollywood blockbusters. In Iceland, Tarr talked to The Hollywood Reporter about his feelings towards mainstream Hollywood, why he won't make another film, which recent movie with foreign-language Oscar nomination potential he enjoyed and why the highest-quality films are not suited for the Academy Awards.

THR: You have said you will make no more films. Now, you were honored here in Reykjavik, and you're set to appear at the New York Film Festival where your last film, The Turin Horse, which Hungary has selected as its submission for the best foreign-language film Oscar, will be shown. Are you really sticking to your plan to not make any more films?

Tarr: I'm not a guy who is joking. If I say yes, you can be sure it's yes. If I say no, you can be sure it's no.

THR: Why did you feel this is a good time to wrap up your filmmaking career?

Tarr: After The Man from London, I was thinking now there is one more [film] coming, and I said in Paris in 2008 that would be my last and then I close the shop. And I am closing my shop. This shop is closed.

THR: What will you do now?

Tarr: Fortunately, I have some other plans. I'm really not worried about life, and I don't want to be a stupid filmmaker who is just repeating himself and doing the same s--- just to bore the people.

THR: What are the other plans you mentioned?

Tarr: I have a production office in Hungary, and I try to [work with] some filmmakers. And I'm going to create a new film school in Croatia, in Split. That's totally enough for me, because it's hard work.

THR: Any recent films from Hungarian or other filmmakers that you have enjoyed?

Tarr: I am only talking about filmmakers, not moviemakers. The real filmmaker has his own style. Some are closer to me than others. For me, it is about quality. When I see someone work who is strong, of course I love and respect it. But I don't want to follow anybody, and I don't have a reason to do it, because I don't do movies anymore.  

THR: Whose films do you think have real quality?

Tarr: I can tell you about my last experience. The last movie, which amazed me, and which I admired, was Aki [Kaurismaki]'s Le Havre. I loved this movie.

THR: That's Finland's hope for foreign-language Oscar candidate this year. What did you like most about it?

Tarr: The humanism, the very sad humor. It is deep, sad and full of jokes, but every joke is very painful. That's what I like.

THR:The film might get nominated for a best foreign-language film Oscar...

Tarr: Mine too. Who cares about this stupidity. You know what I mean. This kind of quality is not for the Academy Awards. This kind of quality and sensibility is for you and the other people - for personal use. The others are just part of a f---ed-up business, which is not my business.

THR: It sounds like you really don't like the broader movie business too much...

Tarr: I really don't care about that. I'm too old. It’s all a kindergarten. I'll go to New York for one and a half days to do the New York Film Festival, and then I will leave. That’s ok.

THR: Do you see any quality difference between Hollywood and European films?

Tarr: I know only good films or s---. I can see a good director who has sensibility for the people or ugly workers who do a f---ed-up job just for the show business. But what is Hollywood!? Don't talk to me about Hollywood. Hollywood guys are [also] watching my movies.

THR: How do you feel about 3D and other new technologies?

Tarr: Technology really looks like a new car. If you want to travel, you have to use your car. From time to time, you get stupid new things in the car. But the car is serving you. You are not the servant of the car. I am not a servant of technology. If it is not working for the humanity and human dignity, my opinion is it is a piece of s---.



Twitter: @georgszalai