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…
"That's enough! Out of here, you tubs of beer!"
The opening sequence of this film is the best thing I have seen for quite a while, and it stands among my favorite moments in all of cinema. I was amazed and perplexed by the film, and I regard it as absolutely a masterpiece, but I probably need to watch it again before I form any kind of take on it.
Srs nonsense. Very avant garde, in the sense that you could honestly say to someone, "hey, want to see a film that makes absolutely no sense", and have them not be even slightly let down by the calibre of absolute.
Some weird stuff happens, and deliberate attempts are made to imitate (so as to be mistaken for) a film made in the 1960s. But this is way too drawn out, and content sense is way too low, to make me not annoyed. It's almost arrogant to use up that much time and not say anything except an esoteric homage to Dadism and pure cinema. Film equipment should be kept away from people libel to make these sorts of things.
Dear Avant Gardists
Sometimes, symbols, in keeping with their definition, represent things.
You know the old story about the dwarf, the whale, and the end of the world, don't you? Well, Tarr tells it as if you should, which is why this movie feels so primordial. Tarr's talent and temerity resides in his insistence on going the full distance, making big statements about being human and being weird that suggest someone who wants to be spoken of in the same breath as Gogol, Goya, and George Herriman.
Tarr creates individual scenes that contain more ideas and more pretensions than many director's entire body of work, and then finds ways of filming those scenes in ways over-designed to make you feel impressed, constructed top to bottom to make sure nothing can be mistaken…
"What they build, and what they will build, what they do, and what they will do is delusion and lies. What they think, and what they will think is ridiculous. They think because they are afraid, and he who is afraid, knows nothing." -The Prince-
This is what happens when a director decides to create a work of art, and knows exactly what they're doing. Werckmeister Harmonies was my introduction to the work of Bela Tarr, and after watching the long, flowing shots that are meticulously planned, the high contrast black and white photography that is perfectly composed, the thought provoking dialogue that is well written as well as intellectually stunning, the patient pace that creates an authentic and honest…
It's a strange feeling when you know you've just witnessed greatness without fully understanding what the hell just happened.
Why do I list Werckmeister Harmonies as my favorite film? Why is it the first review I've written in years? It would be much simpler to ease back into reviewing by offering my opinion of a more clear cut film. Perhaps I could bash a Michael Bay project, or add to the (completely justified) admiration for Boyhood. But no. I have to talk about Werckmeister Harmonies, precisely because I don't know how to describe it. It's the story of a small Hungarian town coming to terms with the outside world, starting with the arrival of a mysterious traveling exhibit featuring a dead whale. Tensions build and townspeople are turned against one another as disharmony reigns. However, this basic plot summary…
I will forever remember August 17, 2014 as the best day for first-time watches ever. Based on reviews for this film, I thought I was in for something certainly thought-provoking, but perhaps also quite boring. The film is constructed of 35 long takes - and it's two and a half hours long. But Bela Tarr's masterpiece is never boring, in fact, it's almost constantly engaging, both because of and in spite of its deliberately glacial pace. Werckmeister Harmonies had the strangest effect on me. I couldn't look away, but until the end of the film, I failed to understand why I couldn't look away. I never checked my phone for the time. I let a call buzz, the frequency floating…
Werckmeister Harmonies is a film about complacency. It is like a father, asking "Why did you fail?". But the father doesn't ask you but instead himself in the mirror, covering in shame as you secretly watch from the sidelines. "Why did you give up?" "Why did you fall into this life?" And these aren't even questions loaded with a sense of guilt or certainly not anger. They're questions intended to create an understanding of a philosophical statement that has already formed in the head of the father; that the human condition is, if nothing else, complacency. As the character of György Eszter, whom we also leave the film with, discusses the titular theory of the Werckmeister Harmonies, it becomes clear…
Sometimes the long shots felt like moving photographs, allowing the viewer to see everything at once. It allows one to focus on different parts of the same image. The part that first gave me this impression is the long take where Janos and his uncle walk into town together. The camera fixates itself on their faces at a certain distance and doesn't move, but they are moving. You see the movement of the wall beside them. You hear them walking. Their faces move ever so slightly. Janos occasionally blinks and looks over at his uncle. Why would a film want to emulate, yet not be, a photograph? It's a simple image, yet since it was such a long take it…
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