This is what happens when your car breaks down on a Sunday morning and you have nothing else to do…
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…
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 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…
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…
I do love long takes, but I think there's something allegorical that I'm missing here. But still, long takes.
It was like watching a Andrei Tarkovsky film made in the 21st century.
This film, truly is one of the greatest movies of all time.
My first Bela Tarr experience. This film obviously deserves multiple viewings and I can't begin to comprehend what everything means but the imagery and sound alone is mesmerising and the 2+ hours flew by. It doesn't feel like a film from 2000, it doesn't really feel like any time. It's out of this world. I must watch more of Bela Tarr soon.
I have read that Werckmeister Harmonies has been seen as a metaphor for political systems in Europe after World War II, but such a reading seems unnecessarily restrictive and closed-minded. The film speaks about humanity, its statement not limited to any particular time or place. Members of our species will always push toward idealistic ideas and seek to find beauty and structure in the world, but the pesky imperfections and anarchic tendencies of mankind will invariably cause them to fail. Werckmeister Harmonies plunges noble and idealistic artists into a world where beauty is rejected in favor of chaos in the name of social progress. Its abstract ideas manifest themselves in symbols that are as brilliant as they are jarring: the whale whose eye graces the film's poster is an especially glorious reminder of man's inability to appreciate majesty. This is a powerful and moving film, and it is one of the major works of the Aughties.
I'm not going to sit here like some jackass and say that I prefectly understood what this movie is trying to do, or that I particularly care. All I know is that there is a tremendous sadness to the events of "werckmeister harmonies" that I haven't experienced with any other film. My first viewing left me floored with grief for Janos valuska, his uncle, and his town.
Also for the whale.
Finally, I've gotten around to watching a film by Bela Tarr. I remember when I first saw Satantango on IMDb as 15-year old thinking that it had to be some sort of inside joke that a 7 and a half hour long black-and-white Hungarian film had such a good rating. I've obviously dismissed that belief long ago, but haven't been able to understand the praise of Bela Tarr's film until just recently. So now that I've finally seen this film, what can I say about Werckmeister Harmonies that no one has said before, probably nothing, but I'll just say what I think about it.
This is a highly symbolic film with a dash of surrealism, as one would in many…
Video essay on Tarr can be found here:
"The sky darkens, then goes all dark. The dogs howl, rabbits hunch down, the deer run in panic, run, stampede in fright. And in this awful, incomprehensible dusk, even the birds... the birds too are confused and go to roost. And then, complete silence. Everything that lives is still. Are the hills going to march off? Will heaven fall upon us? Will the earth open up under us? We don't know. We don't know for a total eclipse has come upon us."
The whale's got no part in it, yet the whale is the cause of it all.
The first twelve minutes of this film are bliss - setting up for the engaging tale to follow. A mesmerizing metaphorical rampage, in slow motion. I'll let the score to this cinematic beast haunt me for the remainder of the night/week/month.
quietly, poetically apocalyptic. i think bela tarr is my new favorite director.
Movies that are slightly off.