Béla Tarr at Alice Tully Hall on Sunday. Photo by Olga Bas

“I'm not a filmmaker anymore,” Béla Tarr declared yesterday at The New York Film Festival, reiterating a statement that cinephiles hoped might not be true. 

The Hungarian was back at NYFF for the first time in 17 years to attend a single, sold out Alice Tully Hall showing of his final film, The Turin Horse. His brief trip to New York—he arrived late Saturday and is leaving today—felt a bit like a victory lap. Wherever Tarr went on the sunny October Sunday he was met with well-wishers wanting to snap his photo, shake his hand or just watch him walking. 

One fan on Twitter called him a “rock star” late Sunday. Throughout the day, the social media network lit up with messages about the acclaimed filmmaker, who said that he has stopped making movies and is launching a film school in Croatia.

During a moving Q&A on stage after the screening, Tarr told the audience that he'd said all he could as a filmmaker. 

“I had a feeling the work is done. Ready.” Tarr explained in slow, heavily-accented English. “No reason to repeat anything, no reason to [make] copies of this language or these feelings, because I want to protect [it]. From myself too. And I really want to give it to you. We created it take it or leave it. And that's all. And I think it's enough for me.”

“For me it is more colorful than color,” Béla Tarr told the Furman audience on Sunday of his reasons for working primarily in black and white. Later, he posed for a large format Polaroid photo inside the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center. After a photo assistant removed the backing to reveal a color photo of the filmmaker, Tarr quipped that the image was fine, but smirked, “I'd like it more in black and white!”

Tarr resisted the fawning of the audience at the intimate Q&A with Richard Peña, countering one fan who sought his advice about filmmaking. “Don't be influenced by anybody,” he said. He reiterated that his story was his own and encouraged other filmmakers to forge their own path.

“When I started I was 22, and i spent 34 years [filmmaking] and step by step I wanted to go closer and closer to [a] pure, very minimal movie,” Tarr began. “I just wanted to do something which is essential and telling you that life is very simple, full of daily routine but every day is different. You do it always the same but every day differently and your life, mine too, can be weaker and weaker, day by day and by the end just disappear. No apocalypse, no big TV show, nothing. Just disappear. And that's what I wanted to tell you. Like a final sentence.”

Béla Tarr at Lincoln Center on Sunday. Photo by Eugene Hernandez/Film Society of Lincoln Center