Monday, September 18, 2006

Family Nest (1979)

Family Nest (Béla Tarr, 1979)
Hungarian Title: Családi tüzfészek

Béla Tarr was only twenty two years old when he made Family Nest, a very mature look at the housing problem that pervades late seventies Budapest. Despite his young age, he was able to make a truthful and at times, heartbreaking commentary on how a supposed political problem has invaded the nucleus of Hungarian society, the family. His style is typical to Eastern European Cinema: a cinema verite style wherein he uses primarily non-actors and the visual appeal is almost non-existent, suggesting a documentary feel to the entire exercise. Tarr would later on develop a style that is completely his own, and would become a pillar in world cinema, his unique style becoming a source of inspiration for filmmakers like Gus Van Sant, Lav Diaz, and perhaps Apichatpong Weerasethakul.

The center of the aftershock of the Hungarian housing project is Laci, a newly released soldier and his wife Iren, who has lived in her father-in-law's pad for the entire time Laci was away. Iren and Laci's father don't exactly have the most perfect of relationships. The father insists that Iren raise her daughter the way he wants him to, and dislikes the fact that Iren would bring home some of her friends from work. Later in the film, the father would poison Laci's mind by saying that Iren is cheating since she's been out for periods of time at night, and that she's not exactly contributing enough money to the household.

It's an almost impossible dream for the couple to get a flat of their own. After all, a flat of their own will keep them away from the father's nonstop nagging, or Laci's brother's irresponsibility. However, getting a flat would require them to fall in line, and face the heartlessness of the government's bureaucracy. Tarr would spend some time showing how this works. Outside, his camera would catch other women telling their plights on the housing problem. A woman was forced to squat in a vacant flat, to miserable results. Inside the interview room, Iren would plead and beg the office worker to grant her the flat she wants or else, her marriage would suffer. But the office worker is merely a low ranking bureaucrat and he is in no position to hear the plight, and suffers through Iren's reasoning and tears. It's a double-edged sword Tarr is playing here, we see the plight of the house-needy residents, and also the virtually useless office workers forced to hear out the complaints and the destroyed lives of those in the mercy of an impersonal society.

It's an amazing debut feature from a very young director. Tarr dissects his society with an experience that would've suited a far more older analyst. The claustrophobic feel of the father's crowded flat, the banter upon banter heard evertime there's a family dinner, the alcohol consumed to temporarily relieve the tension at home, Tarr sees it as truthfully as any filmmaker could and his camera shoots it with any cinematic falsity distilled from the scenario. It's really an amazing feat which Tarr would eventually top in his later features.

1 comment:

Tinshed said...

A stunning debut film indeed and amazing in its assurance and maturity. It is also a devastating portrayal of the sexism of the times The male characters, especially Laci's father, emerge has macho, sexists, hypocritical and at times violent characters, prone to drink and that toxic mixture of sentimentality and lust. Anyway, well worth watching.