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Institute Benjamenta [VHS] [1995]

Mark Rylance , Alice Krige , Stephen Quay , Timothy Quay    Suitable for 12 years and over   VHS Tape
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Actors: Mark Rylance, Alice Krige, Gottfried John, Daniel Smith, Joseph Alessi
  • Directors: Stephen Quay, Timothy Quay
  • Writers: Stephen Quay, Timothy Quay, Alan Passes, Robert Walser
  • Producers: Janine Marmot, Karl Baumgartner, Katsue Tomiyama, Keith Griffiths
  • Format: VHS
  • Language: English, German
  • Classification: 12
  • Studio: Ica
  • VHS Release Date: 1 Oct 1999
  • Run Time: 104 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00004CSFZ
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 281,619 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Product Description

Product Description

The first full-length live action feature from the Brothers Quay, usually famed for their surreal animated shorts. A young, modest man (Mark Rylance) enrols in the strange, dilapidated Institute Benjamenta, a boarding school for the training of servants. He becomes fascinated by the secret world of the owners of the institute and becomes obsessed with Lisa Benjamenta (Alice Krige). But then, slowly, the school starts to disintegrate.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterclass In Dream Sniffing 29 May 2010
By Brady Orme VINE VOICE
"Institute Benjamenta : or This Dream People Call Human Life" is unlike anything you'll have ever seen. Unless you watch Lynch's "Eraserhead" every time it rains on a Saturday afternoon like myself, that is. Brother's Stephen and Timothy Quay are better known for their amazingly disturbing and surreal animations, but with this and their later feature, "The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes", they entered the world of live-action film and yet somehow managed to embed them with the feel and look of their unique animations to boot.

The plot involves a young man called Jakob who arrives at the eponymous institute to study servitude under the brother-sister team of Johannes and Lisa Benjamenta. Enduring never-ending and ludicrous lessons about such things as drawing circles endlessly (makes you a better servant, apparently) Jakob and Lisa (played by the criminally under-used Alice Krige) seem drawn to eachother, but whether the attraction is unrequited is unclear. As Lisa becomes Catatonic as the winter draws in, it seems that it's Jakobs presence and actions are the cause, but the reasons for this have to worked out.... But all this is moot really, as the Quay Brothers aren't interested in anything as trifling as plot - rather the visuals, the surreal dreamlike interludes, the black-and-white photography are what they concentrate on as they do within their animation. And like the aforementioned "Eraserhead" it does indeed mess with your head on a grand scale, so the Brothers can rest assured their goals were met. However, don't watch this movie with a purpose of ferreting out meaning within it's symbolism, as this isn't a puzzle. It's all perfectly spread before you, but like many things of such grand scale, it's sheer size can frighten you.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insitute Benjamenta and John Ashbery 7 Oct 2010
As we know publications such as 'The New York Review of Books' invite the well known to pick their book of the year. Several years ago (and it may have been 'The Times Literary Supplement'!)the poet John Ashbery was one of the 'well known'. I cannot remember the book he recommended, but at the end of his piece he strayed a little to remark upon and praise a film he had seen that year, 'Institute Benjamenta'. I respected Ashbery's poetry and opinions; so I had a look. And I've had a number of looks since. It was my introduction to the Brothers Quay. Remarkable. My original copy was a VHS. The DVD gives it a degree of permanence - plus a documentary on the making of the film - plus a discussion with the Brothers Quay (plus some of their short films). Very good. I can't remember the words John Ashbery used to recommend 'Institute Benjamenta':it does not matter. This film is simply extraordinary. Watch it!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An enchanting artistic experience 9 May 2000
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
If you appreciate films with a strong sense of atmosphere that builds up through the interplay of light and shadow and movement of bodies in space, you will enjoy this film. Brother's Quay background in animation is evident in their treatment of human form. The theme of alienation is conveyed with outmost sensitivity. Surreal, inspiring!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enter... and be astound... 20 Jan 2006
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.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mitteleuropean diary of a nobody 19 Feb 2011
By technoguy VINE VOICE
Robert Walser,the inspiration for Institute Benjaminta,stated "I can breathe only in the lowest regions"and saves himself from fear or the struggle for existence by changing himself into something subservient and small.He also escapes(as he did in the last 26 years of his life)into the madhouse.His characters often inhabit a twilightworld. The Quay twins, famous for their use of puppets,inanimate objects,have used living actors and shot a full length film,telling a story based on Walser's novel Jakob vonGunten.High on atmosphere,avoiding dialogue and linear narrative, utilising stirring,symbolic imagery,they create a visual poem borne along by music,which shapes the trajectory of the scenes,improvised by scenes where the servants train,or simply sway like trees,galvanised by the movement of dance.The lessons are exercises in mindless repetition and subservience.The aspiration to become a `plump zero' seems to be brainwashed into them like a zen koan.

Jakob(Rylance)is a kind of holy fool,seeing salvation in downward mobility,he applies to the Institute to train as a servant for rich people:"I have no high hopes of life."Although he is subversive,cheeky, insolent,questioning all the time(his speech inserts are based on journal entries),he is determined to become an obedient servant. He is inspected on admission like a stag,teeth,ears,eyes,hair by Johannes,the master.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Cor Blimey
Read the reviews before I bought this so I knew it would be a bit different. Certainly is!
I have always liked weird stuff and this is just like those old German Cinema... Read more
Published 22 months ago by james
5.0 out of 5 stars Dreyer Kafka Pessoa Has
Literary sensibilites that arose from viewing/witnessing this artisans masterwork...Pessoa's Book of Disquiet, because this film is based on Robert Walser, & the dream/real... Read more
Published on 15 April 2012 by Zaroff
5.0 out of 5 stars Strange, beautiful, challenging
Forget what you know about mainstream Hollywood movies, and go with the flow of dreamlike images in Institute Benjamenta (DVD + Blu -Ray). Read more
Published on 27 Feb 2012 by zavebe
2.0 out of 5 stars Review.
Strangely dense and uninvolving.

Good cast and subject but it doesn't work for an hour +.

Published on 14 Feb 2011 by B.Graham
5.0 out of 5 stars No words...
What a beautiful and mysterious film!! Just like anything from the Quays.

The packaging is great, and the extras are incredible!! Read more
Published on 13 Aug 2010 by Alvaro Arango Vallejo
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb film, well packaged
IB never looked better, and the remastered soundtrack is simply sunning. Five stars for the Quay's, and the BFI.
Published on 23 Jun 2010 by pianophile
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, wonderful film
Of all the films I've ever seen, this is close to being the one that most completely blew me away.

I first saw it in my local cinema, and after an initial period of... Read more
Published on 23 Jan 2007 by G K
5.0 out of 5 stars Enter... and be astound...
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... Read more
Published on 19 Jan 2006 by yorgos dalman
5.0 out of 5 stars The very best I ever saw
in black and white....How fascinating the light lies like water on Ms Benjamenta's face (first scene) and later flows golden from her mouth... Read more
Published on 7 Dec 2004
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