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:…
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…
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…
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 will at some point in my life, when I'm older and wiser, write an in depth review about the beauty of this film and its impact on me.
For now I simply lack the words.
tbh the opening scene has everything you need to see so just watch that 10x
Werckmeister Harmonies is a towering masterpiece so hypnotic, and so bewildering, that there is no way I will ever be capable of forming my thoughts into a coherent review. Rather, I am going to rattle off some of my initial reactions (as I frequently do after viewing the films of Andrei Tarkovsky) with the hope that at least one of them will hit you on a personal level, and you will make the decision to SEE THIS FILM, if you haven't already;
The shadow of the industry casts itself on the structure of our civilization much like the angel of death casts its shadow on its victims.
The advancement of technology is merely a test of our faith. It is…
★★★★★ = Masterpiece
The opening scene of Werckmeister Harmonies must be one of the most engaging and wonderful ever made. This apparent setting of the tone and the way subsequent events unfold make us very grateful we knew nothing about this film before we sat down to watch it. The experience was… incredible. How wonderful to be surprised and enthralled by a brilliantly-made film!
Werckmeister Harmonies is set in a freezing provincial town somewhere on the Great Hungarian Plain. It is director Béla Tarr’s rendition of László Krasznahorkai’s 1989 novel, “The Melancholy of Resistance”. Tarr’s life-partner, Ágnes Hranitzky, co-directs and edits.
Peppered throughout the film are profoundly moving, indelible vignettes. Some of these mark subtle yet critical points in the…
"…unhinged arrogance wished to take possession of all the harmonies of the gods."
In a quiet, modest town on the Great Hungarian Plain, an insidious circus arrives with an enormous stuffed whale, and threatens to uproot the community's peace and order. Béla Tarr's Werckmeister Harmonies gets lovelier the more I think about it. The film introduces warmhearted protagonist János (Lars Rudolph) with a thoughtful ballet of sorts, wherein he directs pub-goers ("tubs of beer," as the owner calls them) to whirl around like the sun, moon, and earth, while delivering an ominous yet hopeful vignette. This charming prelude sets the metaphorical aura of the film, and, by the end, I already had the urge to revisit it to soak in…
Based on an excerpt from Krasznahorkai's Melancholy of Resistance, Tarr's 2-hour piece uses an extreme sense of spatial and temporal awareness to explore themes of societal decay, anomie, and an ever-increasing moral void.
Tarr's vision is uncompromising, albeit a tad affective (the music can, in combination with his use of The Long Take, come off as manipulative). But his use of space and landscape to propel the emotional narrative of the film results in visually arresting cinematography (the scene of Janos beholden to the Leviathan as it first enters his town comes especially to mind, as do the opening take and the riot scene).
And as with all Tarr's efforts, an existential anxiety as big as that whale creeps into the minds of his characters until it can't be ignored.
One of the best, the most poetic films I had the privilege of watching courtesy of the master, Bela Tar. Extra kudos to the OST by Mihály Vig. Rarely have I witnessed a better combination of image and sound. An absolute masterpiece.
This review reportedly contains spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Quite possibly the most disappointing cinematic experience of my life. I was extremely hyped coming into it, not just because of the ocean of 5* ratings, but also because it seemed like exactly “my kind of film”. There's extreme hype around the visuals of Werckmeister Harmonies, but unfortunately I struggled to find anything truly exceptional.
WH is heavily influenced by Tarkovsky and Theo Agenlopoulos, both in terms of style (the long takes, the panning, etc.) and subject matter. The approach of analyzing a nation’s history through small-scale events that are nonetheless influenced by great “outside” forces is very much in the style of Angelopoulos. The heavy similarity makes comparisons inevitable, and they are not favorable to Tarr.
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