The Man from London

  • 135'
  • Hungary
  • 2007
The Hungarian Béla Tarr (Satan's Tango, Werckmeister Harmonies) is well known for not hurrying when telling you stories. While this film is on the short side for Tarr, here too the tempo is pleasantly slow and his takes are long. The almost hypnotically slow opening scene lasts no less than twelve minutes.
Maloin lives a disconsolate existence in a grey harbour city. He worked as a pointsman in the harbour. Back home, his grumpy wife awaits (Tilda Swinton) along with his daughter. One night, Maloin looks out from his high pointsman's house as a ship from London is unloaded. Passengers transfer to a waiting train. He sees how, in pitch darkness, a suitcase is smuggled off the boat. A little later, two men fight on the quayside over the suitcase. One of the men drowns and the suitcase also ends up in the water. Maloin fishes the suitcase out of the water and finds it is full of money. The pointsman then faces a fight with his conscience. Murder has been committed, but the contents of the suitcase offer him a way out of his oppressive existence.
Tarr based this film on a novel from 1933 by Georges Simenon, the spiritual father of Maigret. Just like Tarr, Simenon did not shy away from existential themes such as greed, honour, guilt and atonement. Here, partly thanks to the camerawork of Fred Kelemen, they are presented to us in a timeless, atmospheric and imposing black & white.

Béla Tarr
Countries of production
Hungary, France, Germany
Production Year
Festival Edition
IFFR 2008
Original title
A Londoni férvi
English, French
Gábor Téni, Paul Saadoun, Miriam Zachar, Joachim Von Vietinghoff, Christoph Hahnheiser
Production Companies
T.T. Filmmühely, 13 Production, Cinema Soleil, Von Vietinghoff Filmproduktion Gmbh., Black Forest Films GmbH
Fortissimo Films
Béla Tarr, László Krasznahorkai, based on the novel by Georges Simenon
Fred Kelemen
Ágnes Hranitzky
Production Design
László Rajk, Ágnes Hranitzky, Jean-Pascal Chalard
Sound Design
György Kovács
Mihály Víg
Tilda Swinton, Miroslav Krobot
Local Distributor
A-Film Distribution