Twilight (1990)
March 4, 2024 8:16 AM - Subscribe

[TRAILER] I keep threatening to post Twilight and now I am. Thing is: this isn't the one with the sparkly vampires. This is Szürkület, the 1990 Hungarian crime film by Béla Tarr's friend & collaborator, György Fehér. The plot: after discovering the murdered body of a young girl deep in a mountainous forest, a hardened homicide detective pushes himself to increasingly obsessive ends in his quest to catch the serial killer -- known only as "The Giant" -- responsible for the crime.

Swiss writer Friedrich Dürrenmatt wrote the script for the acclaimed 1958 German language film Es geschah am hellichten Tag (It Happened in Broad Daylight). Unhappy with changes made to the ending (specifically, that the detective cracks the case and justice is served/order is restored, which is more or less the opposite of the point of his story), Dürrenmatt extended/adapted his script into the novella Das Versprechen: Requiem auf den Kriminalroman (The Pledge: Requiem for the Detective Novel).

There have been seven remakes/adaptations of the story since then, including this one and the 2001 American film by Sean Penn, The Pledge which featured Jack Nicholson in the lead role as the weary detective.

The story is considered a likely influence on the first season of True Detective, with some speculating that the bleak, philosophical, heavily atmospheric, black & white Szürkület might have been a particular inspiration for the bleak, philosophical, heavily atmospheric, desaturated True Detective.

Starring Péter Haumann, János Derzsi, Judit Pogány, Gyula Pauer, Kati Lázár, Miklós Székely B., István Lénárt, László Németh, István Fogarasi, Pál Hetényi, Zsuzsa Erdõsi, József Pethõ, Erzsébet Nagy, Mónika Varga.

Directed by György Fehér. Written by György Fehér, based on the aformentioned script/story/novella by Friedrich Dürrenmatt. Edited by Mária Czeilik. Cinematography by Miklós Gurbán.

The music is an interesting footnote. The bass-heavy, minimalist score actually only features two pieces of music that are repeated at various points. One is a track by Popul Vuh, a cue from their score for Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu, which has been slowed down and pitch-shifted. The second is a Georgian choral piece which featured in part on Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love album.

Although it won some film festival plaudits on its initial release, this film had basically disappeared from circulation for decades, outside of the odd VHS or DVD bootleg in ropy quality. In 2012, it was screened in the UK for the first time. After being unavailable for many years, it was restored in 4K by National Film Institute Hungary. Second Run released the film on Region B Blu-ray in 2023, using this restoration. Arbelos announced a Blu-ray release for the United States for late winter of 2024.

92% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.

Currently, this is not available for streaming anywhere. JustWatch listing. And, as mentioned, for the time being, a region B Blu Ray is your only option to see it. But put it on your radar for when the US disc comes out later this year, as it's really something.
posted by DirtyOldTown (6 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
This is the kind of movie that I thought was very good while I was watching it, but I haven't stopped thinking about it since, such that I have twice gone back to Letterboxd to increase the star rating on my review. I've got it at 5 stars out of 5 now.

Densely, densely atmospheric. Built from only about 40 shots, most of which are lengthy and contemplative. Like Tarr, Feher sometimes rolls with a long take then lets obstructions and dramatic shifts set up what are effectively subshots within the larger shot.

And that ending! It hurt.

This is also the earliest example I have seen of the once striking, then widespread, then ubiquitous, now heavily played out overhead B&W/desaturated shots of dense forest. These of course, were done old school, presumably with helicopters.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:19 AM on March 4 [2 favorites]

A few pullquotes from reviews (in the interest of showing that this is a certified Big Deal for Film Nerds and something they should watch for):
  • NYT: It’s a style so minimalist, it approaches maximalism — and this combination of pulp and precision creates an arresting and unique work of film noir.
  • Slant: In one of the film’s most haunting shots, the camera gradually tracks left from within the police station where detectives discuss the case and lands on a group of citizens standing outside, motionless and unblinking, like ghosts stuck in a liminal space seemingly brought on by the horrific murders of the town’s children. At its most arresting, Twilight gives a grueling, almost paradoxical significance to a force of evil that’s as inexplicable as it is unimaginable.
  • THR: This is not pre-chewed, easily digestible entertainment but patience-testing and austere, built with long takes and pared-down dialogue. Twilight is a procedural with little procedure and, by design, no satisfying answers. The mood it builds is soul-shaking.
  • Film Threat: ...a staggering visual aesthetic. The black-and-white cinematography captures the landscape with visceral articulation. Most locations are wrapped in an undulating fog that mimics reality—images that begin as opaque open up and evolve as though beckoning the audience as their eyes adjust. Further, Twilight’s shots are long and utterly unhurried, affording the film a hypnotic effect. To multiply this sensation, the camera is regularly either too far away from characters to lend them any pathos or so close that it feels claustrophobic. The starkness of Twilight’s conception is matched only by its desolateness.

posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:42 AM on March 4 [2 favorites]

An all-time favourite of mine. Unbelievable atmosphere. It was available to stream at Rarefilmm at one point but since the purges of a few months ago it seems to have disappeared.
posted by remembrancer at 10:19 AM on March 4 [1 favorite]

An all-time favourite of mine. Unbelievable atmosphere. It was available to stream at Rarefilmm at one point but since the purges of a few months ago it seems to have disappeared.

This works for me:

Both Szurkulet and the Rarefilmm site are new to me, thank you both for the knowledge!
posted by Claude Hoeper at 12:41 PM on March 4 [6 favorites]

The scene where the first suspect laughs the most bitter fucking gallows laugh during his interrogation sticks with me. He knows he is screwed, like in a properly Kafka-level, about to be crushed by the system and nothing he can do about it way.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:13 AM on March 5

Wow, this looks like a forgotten gem right up my alley. Thanks, DOT. I'll keep an eye out.
posted by mediareport at 5:39 AM on March 7

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