The morose Karrer (Szekely) lives his uneventful life withdrawn from the world. Spending his days wandering in the terminal rain, watching miners' trucks disappearing into the distance, Karrer always ends his day drinking at the Titanic bar where he has a fancy for the singer (Kerekes). Unable to find a way to instigate an illicit liaison with her, he finally resorts to sending her husband off on a dubious smuggling trip for a few days.
Karrer's attentions remain unfulfilled and he suffers humiliating rejection. Spurned by all those who frequent the bar, Karrer returns to wandering the desolate landscape on a lonely descent into total alienation and damnation.
Originally made in 1987 and now released to tie-in with a new-found interest in the work of the Hungarian-born Tarr (a recent NFT retrospective attests to his critical re-discovery), "Damnation" is a distinctly singular work, resonant with misery and suffering (physical and economic). That's not to say however, that it isn't also a work of great beauty. The rain-sodden landscapes - desperate though they are - are shot with both clarity and beauty and the musical scenes in the godforsaken village have a primitive urgency to them (not to mention a melodic intensity due to the inclusion of popular traditional Hungarian songs) that are extremely hypnotic.
The narrative proceeds at a snail's pace to its inexorable conclusion, marking "Damnation" as testing but rewarding viewing. In detailing a world in which mankind is reduced merely to states of loneliness and despair, Tarr is well-served by his performances, with Szekely particularly delivering an accurate portrayal of a deeply troubled man drowning in the misery of the world. Intellectually provocative and ultimately profoundly affecting.