“The Man from London” (A Londoni férfi “)
Maloin works as a switchman at a railroad station near the ferry harbor and one night as the watches the ferry arrive he sees that the first passenger to get off, a tall thin person, does not go through the customs line but rather goes around the building and stands in a dark corner. He seems to be waiting for something. Soon another man comes into Maloin’s focus and he throws a suitcase to the guy in the corner. When another person arrives a terrible argument ensues followed by a fight and a fatal hit and the suitcase and the men disappear in the water.
Maloin is shocked. He watches as Brown (the murderer) flees the scene and Maloin goes to try to save the victim but he is too late. He does bring up the suitcase which is filled with money, now soaking wet. He hides the suitcase and the money and when his relief comes in the morning, Maloin heads for home as if nothing happened. But something did happen and Maloin’s life is permanently altered.
Director Bela Tarr gives us a film that has us on the edge of our seats throughout. Filmed in black and white and loaded with symbolism, the film moves so slowly that I found myself yelling, “Speed it up already” but I also realized that I was watching a masterpiece of movie making. The fact that I cared enough to let the film upset me told me that.
From the opening shot I was hooked and felt the dread that the film imparted. There is not much of a plot and what there is deals with the suitcase filled with money but we learn that this is simply a pretext for what is yet to come. We become witness to the emotions of life—redemption and hopelessness, hope, humanity and justice. The film rejects the conventions of cinema that we are used to and it is a minimalist movie with a plot that is not a plot.
The performances are amazing. Tilda Swinton is Maloin’s wife and she is essential to Maloin’s hope to attain dignity in his life but he does not seem able to do so. The viewer must face his own assumptions about the purpose of cinema and we want to escape but find ourselves absorbed in this very strange movie. Instead of saying that the movie has nothing to say or do with us, we begin to embrace it as if it is heralding in a new age of filmmaking.
It seems to me that the film is homage to film noir of the 1940’s. We see everything through Maloin’s eyes and we watch him become involved in something he cannot leave. Be warned that this is a film that requires patience to watch but the rewards are plentiful. There are many transcendent moments as the camera acts as an observer to what is going on. Basically I see this as a look at man who aspires to something higher than what he has and what he is but is not allowed to achieve it.
The film is released by Zeitgeist and KimStim and it took my breath away. We do not often see such beauty in Hollywood or even other independent productions and we are lucky to have something of this quality. It is not a film for everyone but those that do see it will feel that they have witnessed something very important and monumental.