In Bela Tarr’s, The Outsider (1981) there’s a very realistic tone similar to the nature of documentary filmmaking. However, unlike his first feature, Tarr chooses to shoot in color instead of black and white. The premise focuses on Andras, a violinist roaming about from working a job in a mental institution to finding work in a cable factory to eventually becoming a disc jockey. He marries Kata but can’t seem to find any genuine happiness, through mundane everyday problems such as paying the rent and worrying about what to do with one’s life. It’s like watching a nomad making a living from place to place but never settling into his real passion of playing the violin. For some reason, Eddie Vedder’s song “Guaranteed” comes to mind, specifically the lyrics, “I knew all the rules but the rules do not know me.” This notion permeates through the course of the narrative in that a person can go about his life on the basis of the beat of his own drum, or in this case the rhythm of his violin playing neglecting everyone’s else way of life as if bored by other people. It’s perplexing to really like this film because the protagonist has an apathetic nature to which is practically impossible to root for him. He doesn’t care! Why should I? Oh, right! He’s an outsider. I think, I’m beginning to understand now.
The Outsider lingers in increments of time and focuses primarily on the moments of disappointment and harsh reality. For instance, in the opening of the film, Andras is playing his violin for the patients in the mental hospital and then attempts to give a patient his injection which he refuses. Tarr adheres to a familiar theme, of resisting conformity and insanity by refusing to take medicine, by refusing to do what society simply tells us to do. Imagine all of society being indoctrinated under the care and confines of a mental institution where one believes they have freedom to explore artistic pursuits but in actuality such freedom has certain restrictions. Those restrictions of course involve getting a job, raising a family, providing food, having shelter, and sacrificing one’s own needs for another which are all the basic necessities of surviving and being a decent human being. I forget where I was going with this tangent. Life’s tough, deal with it?
Bela Tarr has been quoted in saying, “Filmmaking is not like shooting a movie, but a part of life.” Tarr’s ideology sets him apart from the others because, the realism of his stories made me want to obsess about my own life and problems instead of blissfully getting lost in a film that abandons all reality into something more cinematic and adventurous. But Tarr also mentions most of his protagonists are “loners” and, “outsiders” in a world that could careless about giving them a second look. There’s something intriguing about loner heroes. They’re basically like a rolling stone, rollin their way alone. (I’ve got to stop quoting song lyrics)
Much of his camera movement is handheld and you can begin to see his usage of the long take that will further develop into his signature style throughout his other upcoming films.One of his more compelling shots was during the wedding scene, where the camera movement impressively maneuvers around the actors dancing along and eating while a side dialogue between Kata and a former lover takes place. It had an oddly natural tension and a potential conflict up until one of their wedding guests dropped dead from what I presume was a drug overdose. The next cut was the shot of a headstone which was mildly humorous and from an editing standpoint, the timing was spot on. But, isn’t that how life works? One minute you’re up in the clouds and the next minute, BAM you’re down on your ass, sad.
Of course, there’s the moment, where a coworker of Andras is singing “House of the Raising Sun” which had an eclectic cultural edge and was a gratifyingly entertaining scene. However, I can’t recommend thoroughly enjoying this film, it’s like being sea sick on a boat riding the waves at full speed. It’s jarring and drones on almost like that annoying hum of fluorescent lights except with dialogue that personally gave me a headache. Despite, my restlessness for this particular film, Bela Tarr is definitely a master in the cinema of patience which is oddly hypnotic in it’s own right.