My cultural pause for this week concluded by watching Peter Strickland's Katalin Varga. It's an enjoyable Carpathian revenge tragedy - imagine Tarkovsky, crossed with Bela Tarr and a little seasoning of Tarantino. The wind moves over the long grass, there is a weird soundtrack, the camera focuses on a distant horizon for an uncomfortably long period of time and there are sudden moments of extreme violence (thankfully not too graphic). Some get what they clearly deserve but it is not clear that everyone seeking redemption will get it. Just like life really, but not, thankfully, as most of us know it.
What is amazing though is the back story to the movie which is told in one of those "the making of" interviews that now grace most art-house film DVDs. Usually these are pretty gruesome because either the director is a windbag puffed up with his/her own self-importance or they are inarticulate to the point of boredom. This one is different because Strickland comes across very sympathetically as a man on a mission - a mission that no sane person would every start out on - to realize his personal vision in a movie for €30000. Basically this guy had one shot at becoming a film-maker: his uncle died and left him a small legacy, he had no connections with the British film industry, he had no public funding, he had no distribution deal, he had basically nothing apart from self-belief (and sometimes even that seemed like it was slipping away). The Guardian has a good write-up here.
What really endears him to me is his love of the old Scala cinema. I used to go there not long after it opened in 1979 when it was in Tottenham Street. It was cheap and you could see an endless succession of classic European movies. Later it moved to King's Cross and became a bit more sleazy, but still what a cinema should be: a moment in time, a brief window on another world, a step back from reality.