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Damnation (Arbelos Films) Blu-ray Review

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    Ian Jane
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  • Damnation (Arbelos Films) Blu-ray Review



    Released by: Arbelos Films
    Released on: December 14th, 2021.
    Director: Béla Tarr
    Cast: Miklí³s Székely B., Vali Kerekes, Hédi Temessy, Gyula Pauer, Gyí¶rgy Cserhalmi
    Year: 1988
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    Damnation - Movie Review:

    Directed by Hungary's Béla Tarr in 1988 and written in collaboration with author Lí¡szlí³ Krasznahorkai, Damnation tells the story of a man named Karrer (Miklí³s B. Székely) and a cabaret singer (Vali Kerekes) he meets at a bar he frequents called Titanik in the grubby, depressed Hungarian mining town where they both live. Karrer is clearly falling in love with her quite quickly and recklessly, but she's married to the abusive Sebestyén, which obviously complicates matters for them.

    As Karrer becomes more and more obsessed with the alluring chanteuse, not accepting her rejections or taking no for an answer, he starts to pick up on little tells from her side. As he begins to understand that she has feelings for him too but is unable or unwilling to respond in kind, he decides to take it upon himself to get her husband out of the picture so that he can have her all to himself.

    A noirish tale of doomed romance set against the fall of the communist regime in Hungary, Damnation isn't a particularly plot heavy film but it is an insanely atmospheric picture. The black and white cinematography in this film is so strong that, in many ways, the story almost feels like it's meant to come second, but at the same time, the film never feels like an exercise in style over substance. We do wind up caring about Karrer's obsession with the nameless singer who becomes first the object of his affection and soon the only thing in life he seems to really care about (whether he should or not is a different story altogether).

    But those visuals are so captivating and so moving that you can't help but get wrapped up in all of this. The framing, the lighting, the carefully chosen close up shots that reveal more about a characters feelings and motivations than any line of dialogue could, it all works together to turn a movie made in a depressed and run down mining town into something that transcends cultural boundaries, the village backdrop as much a metaphor for what's happening with the characters as a simple representation of the failed policies of the government.

    While the use of music in the film is infrequent compared to more mainstream efforts, the sound design that Tarr employs in the film meshes wonderfully with Mihí¡ly Vig's unusual compositions. This serves to create tension in strange and unexpected ways, with the sounds of the film sometimes putting us into an uneasy place more than the visuals do, but really it all combines into a fascinating mix of mood and tone.

    Damnation - Blu-ray Review:

    Taken from a new 4K restoration from the original 35mm camera negative, Damnation arrives on Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition presentation framed at 1.66.1 widescreen with the transfer taking up 33.4GBs of space on the dual-layered 50GB disc. It's hard to find much to complain about here, the picture quality on this release is excellent. The contract on the black and white image is excellent and while the image is naturally grainy, there isn't much actual print damage to note at all. The disc is well-authored showing no noticeable issues with compression while the picture remains free of any noticeable noise reduction or edge enhancement. Detail, depth and texture are all very strong. The movie looks gorgeous here.

    The only audio option for the feature is a 24-bit DTS-HD 1.0 Mono track in the film's native Hungarian with optional subtitles available in English only. This is a simple track, with the film's minimalist sound design replicated very nicely. There are no problems with any hiss or distortion and the levels are balanced well. The subtitles are clean, clear and easy to read.

    Extra features begin with a new video interview with Béla Tarr that clocks in at eleven minutes. Here the director talks about where some of the ideas for the feature came from, where he was at personally and creatively during this period of his life, real world issues that affected the movie, how the film was received at home and abroad and his feelings on digitally preserving 35mm film.

    Up next is a new video interview with Miklí³s Székely B that runs for twelve minutes. This segment reviews his relationship with Tarr and how they first came to meet and work together, some of the difficult he had with his performance in Damnation, working closely with Vali Kerekes and working with Tarr again on Satantango.

    The third and final of the new video interviews on this disc is with Mihí¡ly Vig. Here, over the span of fourteen minutes, we learn about how he came to work with Tarr on this picture, what his creative process is like and what he specifically did with his compositions for Damnation.

    Arbelos Films has also included a two minute archival newsreel from the Oroszlí¡ny Coal Mine from 1954 and a second two minute short about the Dorog Coal Minutes from 1956 as well as the film's three minutes U.S. theatrical trailer in addition to menus and chapter selection options.

    Included inside the keepcase alongside the Blu-ray disc is a ten-page color insert book that contains an essay entitled 'Disintegration And Revival: Bela Tarr's Damnation' written by Jay Kuehner as well as credits and technical notes for the Blu-ray release.

    Damnation - The Final Word:

    Damnation is as visually stunning as it is quite moving, a fascinating and artistically impressive time capsule of sorts. Arbelos Films has done a fantastic job bringing the film to Blu-ray. The presentation is essentially flawless and while there aren't hours and hours of extra features here, what has been included is of very good quality. A great release for a very interesting film.
    Click on the images below for full sized The Damnation Blu-ray screen caps!





























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