Every film from Roger Ebert's "Great Movies" essays.
This story takes place in a small town on the Hungarian Plain. In a provincial town, which is surrounded with nothing else but frost. It is bitterly cold weather — without snow. Even in this bewildered cold hundreds of people are standing around the circus tent, which is put up in the main square, to see — as the outcome of their wait — the chief attraction, the stuffed carcass of a real whale. The people are coming from everywhere. From the neighboring settlings, even from quite far away parts of the country. They are following this clumsy monster as a dumb, faceless, rag-wearing crowd. This strange state of affairs — the appearance of the foreigners, the extreme frost — disturbs the order of the small town. Ambitious personages of the story feel they can take advantage of this situation. The tension growing to the unbearable is brought to explosion by the figure of the Prince, who is pretending facelessness. Even his mere appearance is enough to break loose destructive emotions...
Why do I hold Werckmeister Harmonies aloft as the greatest film I have ever seen? A huge part of it, admittedly, and the thing that makes me think it will remain my favourite film to the day I die, is its profound personal relevance. I first saw the film about 5 years ago now, at a time when my interest in cinema was in the very very earliest stages of blossoming. It blew me away. Takes that long, images that symbolic, music that intoxicating, scenes that spellbinding, meanings that elusive... it was far too much for my uninitiated mind to deal with, but I knew that it was changing me. What's funny is that I encountered it entirely by mistake:…
There is no comfort in the worlds created by Bela Tarr. He has the unique ability to create his very own universe within the stories he chooses to relate. Otherworldly, yet real, Tarr's earth is a singularly harsh and unforgiving place, a place in which he chooses to explore what we are and where we are headed.
Werckmeister Harmonies is no different. In harrowing black and white we are transported to an anonymous Hungarian town, out of which life is slowly seeping away. It is a desolate place, struck by poverty and inhabited by people for whom life is very hard. While we follow mailman Janos (the focal point of the story), we slowly pick up snippets of how bad…
PTAbro's World Tour Stop 11: Hungary
"The world has gone completely mad. Now it's not down here, but up there where something's gone wrong."
János is a simple man; a servant and an idealist. Always being tasked with jobs no one else wants to do, like putting unruly children to bed or delivering an ultimatum to his closest friend from his conniving ex-wife, it is poetic that what he's actually paid to do is deliver the news that no one else wants to hear. Everyone around him refuses to hear the truth, and since it is his job to do so, he is relegated to a gopher in order to delay his inevitable announcements until it is too late. It's…
Part of the 30 countries festival. Hungary
"For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." – Matthew 12:40
Werckmeister Harmonies... Three days in the life of János, three days in the making of a revolution in a small Hungarian town, three days of threat, darkness, ignorance, duplicity. A three day eclipse of the sun/Son.
"And just imagine, in this infinite sonorous silence, everywhere is an impenetrable darkness. Here, we only experience general motion, and at first, we don't notice the events that we are witnessing" – János Valuska asking three drunks to play the sun, the moon…
Revolution rolls through the hidden towns and villages of Eastern Europe, leaving a trail of destructive mythology in its wake. Like the countless dictators that have come before it this dark, moving force holds captive one of the wonders of the world, God's magnificence held within a giant steal container. Wherever it comes to rest its unsettling presence moulds chaos from tranquility.
The omnipotence of a higher power lingers behind the framing of Bela Tarr's slow hypnotic takes taking in the fragility of man still so easily shaped and corrupted by elements beyond our control. His camera moves gracefully around the town following Janos through his routine in the first half of the film in sequences that induce a dreamlike…
Part of Lise and Jonnie’s What A Wonderful World: May 30 days, 30 countries.
Film 5 – May 5 – Hungary
My initial reaction after watching Werckmeister Harmonies ( besides running up to the cold dark attic and burying myself in whatever fodder I could find ) was to chicken out and toss off a non-review as I had done with The Turin Horse. Maybe a quip about the Prince, maybe an observation that Giant Whales coming to town is never a good sign. No, I’ll try to at least put down some impressions without any time to contemplate.
Since there is no way to compare Werckmeister to any film that I’ve ever seen except my only other Tarr, I’ll…
How do you get ready for a movie that's supposedly very meditative, dark and slow with its notorious 36 long takes?
Simple, you just hype it up for yourself. You've never seen it and you think you already have.
And the best of it all: it's when a movie is a thousand times better than you've ever imagined.
I'm certainly not smart enough to review this film. Very artful but also very boring. I have no desire to ever watch this again. And now I know I can't try and do Satantango.
p.s. I do really like the way that Mark Cousins says "Bela Tarr" in The Story of Film: An Odyssey. That's all I have ...
This is a strange, mesmerizing film with many long shots (39 shots, in fact), some of them with no dialogue. Director Bela Tarr sets this film in a small town in Hungary during the Soviet occupation after WW2. It's a frozen, snowless winter.
The opening scene, shot in a tavern, is a classic. Janos, a young man who spends his days caring for his extended family, is asked to demonstrate an eclipse, which he does by choreographing the drunken patrons to simulate the movement of sun, moon and earth.
The ominous event on which the whole town is focused is the pending arrival of a circus truck with a giant stuffed whale and the mysterious Prince. There are rumors that…
It's fitting that the film should open with men in a bar simulating the movement of the cosmos and a description of the way a solar eclipse leaves earthly beings in awed silence. It sets the stage for Tarr to spend the rest of the film closely tracking the movements of every character through light and dark spaces in an attempt to understand the turbulence that eventually occurs.
The first time we hear the film's melancholic score is when we hear of the way all animals are overcome with emotion when, during a solar eclipse, the moon moves out of the way and starts letting sunlight return to the Earth. The score is used sparingly, only three times in the…
I get it, Bela. I get it. Life. All the symbolism. The motifs. I get it. I really do. But my god, this movie was so incredibly boring. Your fancy long takes were very much appreciated, and I loved the first scene. But I get it, Mr. Tarr. The score was good, but ruined because it was incredibly repetitive. There were so many scenes where I rolled my eyes. The film had strong use of symbolism, which I admired, but the scenes were so drawn out and overly long, the emotion didn't work. I felt emotion for the characters, but after a while it just got dull.
I did appreciate it for what it was, and the filmmaking quality was fine, but it was just so wooden. Dare I call it pretentious? I won't.
Whatever, I might watch it again a few years down the line. I may be wrong.
It's like Tarkovsky, only in reverse.
Tarr's work has the same sense of unearthly foreboding rooted in (something like) reality, the same profound capability for describing human emotion, and the same contempt for montage.
Where they differ is their outlook. Where Tarkovsky offers hope, Tarr can find none. Of course, it's hard to dismiss this as some kind of miserabilist treatise when Lars Rudolph can still illustrate the magic of an eclipse using a bunch of drunks, or when there's a GIANT WHALE in the middle of rural Hungary.
Quite possibly the definitive one-size-fits-all filmic allegory. What does it all mean? You tell me, but only after I tell you.
The deliberate pacing and unique narrative structure will leave newer and uninitiated audiences a little lost, but most others will be drawn to this film for its visual poetic beauty and haunting, thought-provoking themes.
Werckmeister Harmonies, in its murky ocean of thought-provokingly elusive themes and enigmatic historical allegories, is a haunting, chilling, and beautifully-paced creation that rivals Tarkovsky's.
Deciding to film a film exceeding two hours in under 40 shots is a terribly risky undertaking. To have the camera rolling for an average of 3.7 minutes per shot poses a problem of "How to keep the audience from falling asleep or walking out in frustration?" Tarr solves this issue by having the camera exist as an omniscient being with an eye for beauty, moving never with haste and capturing sights of curious interest. The way the camera follows through the hospital is unsettlingly calm, not ashamed nor proud of the situation, just accepting. As…
This movie has dumbfounded me. I'll admit, I had to pause during the film because I had to empty my bladder. But that's on me. Tarr has created a handful of films, but they are each, of what I've seen so far (this and The Turin Horse), masterpieces. Tarr creates realist cinema, each detail perfectly placed. Werckmeister starts in a bar, where the protagonist, Janos, organizes an interpretation of a total solar eclipse. with three other patrons. A beautiful track slowly ensues and the four are spinning around the bar. A mesmerizing opening. And ah! What's this? Ten minutes have already gone by. This just proves that Tarr's film, with it's pace moving as fast a turtle, is masterful handiwork…
Many favorites, as well as a small handful of films that I don't care for... in no particular order (1960-2014).