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Werckmeister Harmóniák

Werckmeister Harmóniák (2000)

tomatometer

100

Average Rating: 8.2/10
Critic Reviews: 9
Fresh: 9 | Rotten: 0

No consensus yet.

audience

91

liked it
Average Rating: 4.3/5
User Ratings: 4,456

My Rating

Movie Info

Bela Tarr follows up on his seven-hour epic Satantango, considered by some critics as one of the finest films of the 1990s, with this elegant, haunting work about the cycles of violence that have dogged Eastern European history. Jancos (Lars Rudolph) is a wide-eyed innocent who works as an occasional postal worker and as a caretaker for Mr. Ezster (Peter Fitz). An outsider and a visionary, he marvels at the miracles of creation, from the planets rotating in the heavens to the sundry animals on

Feb 28, 2006

Menemsha

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All Critics (32) | Top Critics (9) | Fresh (30) | Rotten (1) | DVD (4)

Six years after the 7-1/2-hour Satan's Tango, Magyar maverick Bela Tarr makes a stunning feature return with "Werckmeister Harmonies," another hypnotic meditation on popular demagogy and mental manipulation that's a snap at 145 minutes.

October 5, 2007 Full Review Source: Variety
Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Bela Tarr's style seems to be an attempt to regard his characters with great intensity and respect, to observe them without jostling them, to follow unobtrusively as they move through their worlds, which look so ordinary and are so awesome, like ours.

September 14, 2007 Full Review Source: Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A chilling, mesmerizing, intense account of ethnic cleansing (in spirit if not in letter) from Hungarian master Bela Tarr.

September 14, 2007 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Weird, wonderful, witty and unsettling.

January 26, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Using long takes, sensuous camera movements and the mournful beauty of Mihaly Vig's score, Tarr offers in Werckmeister Harmonies an indelible statement on loneliness and spiritual thirst.

February 1, 2002 Full Review Source: San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic IconTop Critic

An unabashed art film of real daring and power.

December 27, 2001 Full Review Source: Chicago Tribune
Chicago Tribune
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The thing is, and this is easy to lose sight of in conversations about tracking shots and pointedly empty acting and symbolic cetaceans, [this] is an extraordinarily pleasurable experience to watch.

March 31, 2014 Full Review Source: Antagony & Ecstasy
Antagony & Ecstasy

... it is difficult not to be moved by the whale carcass, just as later, a naked old man discovered standing in a hospital bath finally quells the rioting - both symbols of man facing his mortality.

February 28, 2012 Full Review Source: Reeling Reviews
Reeling Reviews

Here cosmos and chaos, action and reaction, hope and despair, love and anger, all bump and grind together in a Satanic tango

May 14, 2009 Full Review Source: Eye for Film
Eye for Film

It's shot in static or very slow-moving long-takes; the monochrome images are deliberately oppressive; the pace would strike the organisers of a state funeral as excessively slow.

September 14, 2007 Full Review Source: Observer [UK] | Comments (3)
Observer [UK]

Limited appeal, a slow pace, a demanding film; but as interesting a work of art as the best of films

April 14, 2006 Full Review Source: Movie Habit
Movie Habit

Operatic.

March 28, 2006 Full Review Source: Not Coming to a Theater Near You
Not Coming to a Theater Near You

A film that encourages one to put on their thinking cap.

March 17, 2006 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

dares to say the apocalypse has a startling, bleak beauty all its own.

March 14, 2006 Full Review Source: Filmcritic.com
Filmcritic.com

It is an arduous task, but the film achieves a transcendent and ethereal beauty that only the few truly great masterpieces attain.

April 23, 2005 Full Review Source: Cinematic Reflections

For once, understanding is less important than experiencing.

July 8, 2003 Full Review Source: Empire Magazine
Empire Magazine

This will be a tough watch for many: an uncompromisingly difficult and severe experience. But I found it unique, mesmeric and sublime.

April 20, 2003 Full Review Source: Guardian [UK]
Guardian [UK]

Werckmeister Harmonies exerts a peculiarly powerful spell.

April 15, 2003 Full Review Source: BBC

Tarr's true achievement is to attain the condition of silence, and of bottomless, awesomely inscrutable nightmare.

April 1, 2003 Full Review Source: Sight and Sound
Sight and Sound

Perhaps Tarr's greatest gift is his merciless sense of cinematic economy and an ambiguity that springs not from some intellectual conceit but from the sheer honesty of his gaze.

January 19, 2003
Vue Weekly (Edmonton, Canada)

The film creates a vivid sense of the reality of the townspeople and their daily lives, even though Tarr deliberately makes their social relations hard to decipher.

June 11, 2002 Full Review Source: Boston Phoenix
Boston Phoenix

The pacing is slow, but the film is entrancing and earns a permanent place in the viewer's mind.

May 30, 2002
New Times

Audience Reviews for Werckmeister Harmóniák

A small town. A drunk room; a rather dreary bar with two big lights hanging from the ceiling. Village simpletons falling all over the floor with an overdose of drinks. "You tubs of beer"..the bartender calls them! At closing time, a wide-eyed, gaunt, but seemingly popular young man walks in. He is Janos Valuska (Lars Rudolph). He uses the drunks at the bar as props and demonstrates the Solar Eclipse and the effects of this phenomenon on the behavior of the mortal beings of the earth. The scene lasts for the first 10-12 minutes and ends with a melancholic, haunting score by Mihaly Vig. This single scene is so beautiful, it sets the tone for what's to come.

There is a shroud of ambiguity over Hungarian filmmaker Bela Tarr's "Werckmeister Harmonies" (co-directed by Ágnes Hranitzky). There is communication that is very vague. Things are spoken about something bad that happened before and something terrible that's perhaps about to happen. And in some towns, they say it has already begun. Is it the advent of the apocalypse?

[img]https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-YP8w1KUIMss/T7OwVbVZCLI/AAAAAAAACj0/3za38A93En8/s736/vlcsnap-2012-05-16-19h01m45s121.jpg[/img]

At the center of this mystery is a stuffed giant whale, a part of a "circus" that has arrived in town. This circus also features the enigmatic "Prince". With the coming of the whale and the Prince there is suddenly a 'lack of harmony' within the quietude of the town. Foreigners have started encroaching. There are stories that they have started rioting and looting. The whale is perhaps the reason. Most people seem to regard the whale as an abomination. Only Janos sees it as a bounty of nature, a miracle of God...Janos is clearly an optimist. Or is it the Prince who is behind all the turbulence? There are all kinds of stories. The dead whale and the Prince are somehow responsible for creating ripples in the otherwise still waters of the quiet little town. They have already spread their wings on other parts of the country. But are all these just urban legends?

[img]https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-qgbBO9FTljo/T7OwahuqMuI/AAAAAAAACkQ/fnhcbIbD_Cc/s736/vlcsnap-2012-05-16-19h12m11s194.jpg[/img]

One of the main characters, György Eszter (Peter Fitz), speaks about how the musical intervals and harmonies as we know them over the centuries are "false" and the result of a huge scandal brought about by a certain Andreas Werckmeister. The title alludes to the harmonies or lack thereof owing to some funny business brought about by Werckmeister as a result of an "unhinged arrogance" that wished to take possession of the natural harmonies of the Gods! This one scene and the philosophy within has a strong connection with the overall theme of the film...lack of harmony and how it is brought about!

Eszter's former wife Aunt Tunde (Hanna Schygulla) has an agenda of her own...she is out to initiate a "clean town" project with the help of her current lover, the Police Chief, for which she needs her former husband's help. "Our Janos" (as he is referred to by all townsfolk who like him) is entrusted the task of convincing Eszter to use his command and popularity to get support of the movement. Eszter reluctantly agrees. "I've paid for it and I may pay for it all my life", he says. But what exactly? Tarr doesn't think that is important. We never get to know. He clearly loves ambiguity.

[img]https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-KWFBP-5MgLo/T7OwXKGW4CI/AAAAAAAACkE/P0SiQJjZyhE/s736/vlcsnap-2012-05-16-19h13m04s252.jpg[/img]

Tarr also loves extremely long takes, stark Black and White cinematography (beautiful at that), a somber mood, melancholic score, a languorous pace, bleak imagery and an overall sense of doom and despair. There are long philosophical monologues which are almost poetic and need to be heard at least twice to grasp. There is a distinct "meditative" feel to the proceedings. It is not difficult to spot the heavy Andrei Tarkovsky influence here, just as in other films of his. But Tarr's pictures are less abstract than those of the great Russian filmmaker. "Werckmeister Harmonies" is mostly materialism heavy but there certainly is some symbolism embedded in the narrative. The "Prince" who travels with the whale, for example, is a mysterious faceless creature who seems to have immense powers. A clock that was dead for years started ticking again as he went past! And he apparently also incites rioting. He doesn't believe in any greater power or authority either. Is he then the "Prince of darkness" with a thirst for destruction?

[img]https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-5jY0wh9kkj8/T7OwVkOY7cI/AAAAAAAACj4/bgOUAwduCoU/s736/vlcsnap-2012-05-16-19h06m38s231.jpg[/img]

Tarr demonstrates his ability to create a powerful impact through the marriage of visuals and sound. On one hand there is the scene in which Vig's soulful music accompanies, like Janos appreciating the whale and being awestruck by its enormity. And then there is the scene in a newspaper factory. Long monologues and ambient sounds serve as a background to Janos' mundane activities being filmed, and later the camera slowly pans to the person delivering the monologue! Then, of the several long tracking shots, a particular shot of Janos and Eszter walking adjacent to each other in an almost synchronized march of their feet (with only the sound of their feet and a lunch box providing the sound...carrying on for a good 2-3 minutes!) can't help but bring a smile on your face. Apparently, for one other scene, in which a lot of people are marching together to reach a destination, Tarr was asked why the scene is that long. Tarr simply answered "that's how long it took to get there!"

"Werckmeister Harmonies", like any other Bela Tarr film, is surely not for the impatient viewer. It is for that segment of film lovers who love their films grave; and who don't mind the scenes playing out real time, with the editing process being allowed to take the back seat as long as the final product delivers. Suffice to say, Tarr manages to engulf the viewer under his spell and guarantees a hypnotic audiovisual experience, one that culminates into a powerful ending that leaves a lasting impact....

Score: 10/10.

[img]https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-YEMl6Znggl4/T7OwcglfYZI/AAAAAAAACkY/Z7NG_AjGZuA/s736/vlcsnap-2012-05-16-19h18m04s180.jpg[/img]
May 16, 2012
Aditya Gokhale
Aditya Gokhale

Super Reviewer

I am in total awe with this movie. Total awe. A decadent, surreal, introspective masterpiece. Words can not even begin to describe how fully affected I was by this movie. The directing was fucking incredible - every single second of every single frame was filled with purpose, the director had a tendency of staying with a scene for minutes, even, after a main character leaves the frame, no matter how minimal the action, that I found ingenious. The director was not afraid to get as close as possible to show the beauty in every human face, no matter how imperfect, and to stay with his characters' movement. No matter how repetitive, these shots always worked, especially when the actors filled the pregnant silence with their expressions or just mere presence. There were so many incredible shots, all of them more than notable. I also loved how the camera was almost constantly in movement, there were few completely still shots. The actors were brilliant, especially the lead - he had a quiet, intense dignity reminiscent of someone like Klaus Kinski that fascinated me. The story was surreal and so bloody potent, the final shot had me in tears not from any particular emotional drag but from the mere beauty of it and the power of what I had just witnessed. By all means, this is not for everyone, it requires a lot of patience. This is not just entertainment, this is a film that absolutely requires you to think about what you are viewing and ask questions, even if they aren't answered right away. But it is the most amazing film I have seen in quite some time, and has instantly become a favourite.
March 9, 2007
drago25

Super Reviewer

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Foreign Titles

  • Die Werckmeisterschen Harmonien (DE)
  • Werckmeister Harmonies (UK)
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