Béla Tarr’s Family Nest is perhaps best epitomized by an early carnival set piece in which the camera twirls round and round on a whirligig, accompanied by an upbeat and saccharine melody that suggests the Carpenters gone Hungarian, and climaxes with a smash cut to a character vomiting. This juxtaposition should be no surprise to those familiar with Tarr’s work; indeed, the scene seems a warm-up for an even more involved music-to-vomit sequence in his seven-and-a-half-hour masterpiece Sátántangó. In the latter film it’s a simultaneous joke and endurance test that adds to Sátántangó’s thematic brilliance, in the former it merely parallels the trying nature of sitting through Family Nest’s numerous faux-documentary squabbles. There’s a bracing sense of realism to the early scenes as the titular unit argue their way through dinner, the divide separating insult from compliment subsumed by consistently raised voices that cancel each other out and lead to misplaced aggressions. Eventually, though, Family Nest follows the plight of Irén (Lászlóné Horváth), the family’s frustrated, exiled daughter-in-law, as she searches the communist block for housing of her own, and the characters suddenly morph into unconvincing mouthpieces for a highly unsubtle political critique.
Par for the course for Facets Video, the black-and-white Family Nest is presented in a truly awful 1.33:1 transfer that features numerous print flaws and pixel-heavy blacks. Sound is hollow and degraded; it may all be appropriate to Tarr’s intent, but the total package leaves a lot to be desired.
You’ll want to fly out of this Nest, pronto.