Enter “Institute Benjamenta” is entering a world that is almost… other worldy. Strange maybe, but it’s a world created by the twin brothers Stephen and Timothy Quay who are known for their claustrophobic animated shorts which are little dreamlike environments, filled with wood, iron, feathers, shattered glass and worn-out, strange little moving puppet things. Now there is their first live action feature and the Quays have menaged to keep the dark brooding atmosphere that was so deliciously present in their early works.
The Institute is a school for butlers, but expect no standard training procedures. It feels more like some ‘last resort on earth’, a school in whuch lessons are repeated to infinity and makes the students move and look like marionets. There is no real story here, in the minds of the Quay brothers that concept probably doesn’t even seem to exist. It’s a series of tableaus in which not action or dialogue but movement is the main treat; there is the motion of the actors, who are sometimes directed to make seemingly unreasonable moves, and there is the perfect colaboration between lights, camera and editing. It’s a ballet, a theatre of motion, and the spoken dialogue is more part of the music than of the pot.
The decors are incredibly detailed: pictures, gestures, objects, nothing escapes the eye of the filmmakers, who seem to operate even more as one single person, than most single movie directs do. The result is a stunningly and hypnotic film, shot in velvet black and white, slow and wicked, some times too slow and wicked, but rewarding for those who can wait.