Hungarian director Béla Tarr eschews heavy dialogue and plotting for cinematically pleasing show-don't-tell approaches typified by long takes, patient rhythms, minimal performances, and stark close-ups. Based on a novel by Georges Simenon, The Man From London is a crime thriller on cough syrup, stripped to psychological minimalism focusing on the nature of guilt and the moral (and visual) gradations between light and dark rooted in a dank Central European Catholicism. In the film's superb extended opening shots, port night watchman Maloin (Miroslav Krobot) silently observes a suitcase-with-money handoff gone bad and then retrieves the money for himself. Eventually the temptation wears on him and he commits a grave act of violence.
The camerawork of cinematographer Fred Kelemen consists of takes that move so slowly they almost constitute still portraits or landscapes. The Steadicam rhythms lull viewers into contemplation, which sounds like (but is not) a cop-out for tedium. There are a few clunky scenes given the exactitude displayed elsewhere. Tilda Swinton, her speech dubbed into Hungarian as Maloin's wife, is distracting. When dialogue is spoken, some actors tend to rush to infuse it with too much emotion. Nonetheless, the film's greatest moments are still as revelatory and hauntingly sparse as Tarr's best work. The Man From London was featured in the 45th New York Film Festival, the 2007 Cannes Film Festival, and the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival.