Revered auteur Béla Tarr, renowned for his languid, unmoving shots, opens this non-narrative short with a minute-long meditation on a barren path as Tarr’s frequent lead actor Mihály Víg walks into the horizon. What follows is a series of recitations from the works of Hungary’s national poet, Sándor Petőfi, as Víg wanders through the titular plain, occasionally settling in crumbling buildings. Víg performs one of his compositions in the film on an organ at the back of a truck as the landscape flickers past.
In all honesty, this film should only really of interest to those already acquainted with Tarr’s oeuvre, as it doesn’t rank up there with his best films. There’s definite value to it, but it requires a great deal of patience and open-mindedness. Although there’s some outstanding framing, the photography is all over the place. At times it could be an excerpt from a high budget feature – the closing shot of an apathetic child on a swing is particularly stunning – at others it wouldn’t look out of place on a public access TV channel. The decision to work in colour steals the film of the ethereal magic seen in Tarr’s best works (all but one of his feature films are in black and white). Perhaps I have grown too familiar with his visual language, but there is definitely something discordant here. Conversely, Víg’s music, which is usually in keeping with the aching solemnity of Tarr’s films, is filled with quiet optimism, and illuminates this otherwise moody piece.