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Fri, 07 Sep 2012 11:51:53 EDT by admin, 113204 views
Rochester Institute of Technology
Cultural Studies paper by Tőke, Lilla (all papers)
Béla Tarr and the Past and Future of Hungarian National Cinema
Cinema studies in Hungary have expanded and diversified significantly in the last 25 years. What seems to have remained constant however is the analytical framework that defines Hungarian cinema in terms of a self-contained national tradition and places it within the cultural project of nation building. For instance, very little has been said about Hungarian films’ transnational circulation and reception or about the impact of the global flow of visual culture on Hungarian cinema. Does the idea of a Hungarian national cinema make sense in the post-1989 political and economic reality defined by European integration and a heavily globalized media culture? And if yes, how do we describe what “national” means? In other words, what did “Hungarian cinema” mean in the socialist era and what significance does the notion have today for film fans around the world?
Béla Tarr’s oevre will serve as a case study to demonstrate that Hungarian cinema can maintain its intensely local character, while also gain supranational relevance under dramatically changed global production, distribution and reception practices. Looking at Tarr’s geopolitical landscapes, this paper will argue that his films’ seamlessly intersect the politically poignant critique of Hungary’s late socialist reality with an existentialist meditation over human imperfection. The harsh landscape of the Hungarian countryside anchors the characters’ lives in an intensely material way. The crumbling walls, relentless rain, and flat, dreary landscape could not be more concrete and tangible. Yet, the overwhelming images of decay and isolation are also symbolic of the transience and eternal passing of everything man-made. The continuous oscillation between these two interpretative dimensions: the universal and the local, the abstract and the concrete, the atemporal and the historically specific makes Tarr’s movies prime examples of how Hungarian cinema can prevail in the rapidly changing global film culture.
Brief Professional Bio:
Lilla Tőke is an Assistant Professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology. She obtained her PhD in May 2010 from Stony Brook University in Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies. Her doctoral dissertation with the title “Communism with Its Clothes Off: Eastern European Film Comedy and the Grotesque” examines the genre of communist film satire, asking why, after 1989 with the dramatic political, economic, and cultural changes, these films became cult classics, widely circulated and appreciated amongst all audiences. She also has an MPhil degree in Gender Studies from the Central European University, Budapest. Her research interests revolve around the subject of Eastern European cinema, transnationalism and Hungarian television, and feminist theory.