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Werckmeister Harmonies [DVD] [2003] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]

4.6 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Region 1 encoding. (This DVD will not play on most DVD players sold in the UK [Region 2]. This item requires a region specific or multi-region DVD player and compatible TV. More about DVD formats)
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Product details

  • Actors: Director: Bela Tarr
  • Format: DVD-Video
  • Language: Hungarian, Slovak
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (US and Canada DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: Unrated (US MPAA rating. See details.)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000E6EGT6
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 121,875 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Product Description

Béla Tarr (born July 21, 1955) is an acclaimed Hungarian film director. Much of his work is marked by philosophical elements and a pessimistic view of humanity. His films utilize unconventional storytelling methods, such as long takes and/or non-professional actors to achieve realism. Debuting with his film Family Nest in 1979, Tarr underwent a period of what he refers to as "social cinema", aimed at telling mundane stories about ordinary people, often in the style of cinema vérité. Over the next decade, the cinematography of Tarr's films gradually changed; Damnation (1988) was shot with languid camera movement aimed at establishing ambience. It marked Tarr's earliest experimentation with philosophical themes, focused mostly on bleak and desolate representations of reality. Sátántangó (1994) and Werckmeister Harmonies (2000) continued this approach; both are considered by some critics to be among the greatest films ever made. Tarr would later compete in the 2007 Cannes Film Festival with his film The Man From London.

Customer Reviews

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Format: DVD
On a cold, windswept square in a small central Hungarian town a carnival arrives with a giant stuffed whale as the special attraction. The town longs to find out what it looks like and to perhaps catch a glimpse of the potentially dangerous "Prince" who runs the show. The arrival of the carnival is the catalyst for unsettling this quiet town and a revolution begins to be fostered by members of the town's political elite...

Bela Tarr is the king of the long take yet this film is so much more than just a slow moving, black and white European arthouse picture. Based on the book "The Melancholy of Resistance" by László Krasznahorkai, Werkmeister Harmonies is a powerful meditation on loneliness, evil, political power, control, and the potential insanity of crowds. It's effect is in many ways elemental...it is hard to be specific about what Tarr is trying to explore but you will come away confused and exhilarated.

This is film making of the highest intellectual standard. In addition to the incredible shot making and photography the score provided by Mihaly Vig adds emotional weight to the images on screen. This is without doubt one of the most significant pieces of cinema produced in the last 25 years.
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"Werckmeister Harmonies" is a must for all arthouse movie fans, and Bela Tarr, the director, deserves all the praise he can get for his new and dynamic way of presenting cinema. There are no expensive and large budget scenes in this film, yet it is astounding in portraying its apocalyptic subject matter by its simple and direct means and relatively sparse dialogue. The cinematography is magical and the acting is to the point. You don't have to be Hungarian to understand and identify with this post-communist tragedy, all you need to do is sit back and watch.
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Format: DVD
The opening is one of the most intriguing I've come across. We're in a working class tavern in a small Hungarian village. It's closing time, but one of the drunks wants Janos (Lars Rudolph), the young mail carrier, to explain the cosmos again, and the meaning of a great eclipse. Soon Janos has these rough, staggering men shuffling around the one he has made the sun, one the earth, another the moon. Others join in, eyes unfocused, all caught up in something out of their understanding. "...and now," Janos says, "we'll have an explanation that simple folks like us can understand about immortality. All I ask is that you step with me into the boundlessness where constancy, quietude and peace, infinite emptiness reign. And just imagine that in this infinite sonorous silence everywhere is an impenetrable darkness." The temperature outside is 17 degrees below zero. It's cold to the bone, but without snow. And Janos says, "The sky darkens and then all goes dark. The dogs howl, rabbits hunch down, the deer run in panic, run, stampede in fright. And in this awful, incomprehensible dusk, even the birds, the birds, too, are confused and go to roost. And then...complete silence. Everything that lives is still. Are the hills going to march off? Will heaven fall upon us? Will the earth open under us? We don't know. We don't know."

Bela Tarr's Werckmeister Harmonies seems to me to be a great combination of allegory about human beliefs, pessimism about human behavior and extraordinary movie making. The image of all these village drunks slowly shuffling and turning around one of their own, the sun, is pure cinema, original, striking and memorable.

Late that night, when Janos is delivering mail, he sees a huge truck slowly driving past a row of buildings leading to the town square.
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4 Comments 17 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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By L. Davidson VINE VOICE on 5 May 2014
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
"Werckmeister Harmonies" is a mesmerizing film, directed by the Hungarian Bela Tarr. It is set in a small Hungarian town and the film is shot in monochrome and features the extensive use of long takes throughout. The film follows the life of Janos , an innocent, kind hearted young man , after the arrival into town of a circus featuring a large stuffed whale and a mysterious figure called the Prince. As the film progresses , the town descends into anarchy and mob rule , culminating in a memorable 15 minute scene where a silent, angry crowd march to a local hospital and proceed to beat up the patients. Janos gets caught up in these disturbing events as the forces of chaos displace those of law and order. To be honest , I couldnt make too much sense of this film, but it is visually impressive with many striking images and scenes and the soundtrack is good as well.
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This is surely a masterpiece, taking Laszlo Krasznahorkai's fine and elusive novel (The Melancholy of Resistance) and transcribing it brilliantly for the screen. It's a haunting film, in which you oscillate between taking it as an allegory and a piece of bold realism. Hanna Schygulla only has a limited part but she is devastating. Lars Rudolph, in the lead male role of Valuska, delivers outstandingly on simultaneously playing the town postman-idiot while also having hugely intellectual understandings. The chaos that overwhelms the community is made to feel compellingly inevitable. It's a superb and thought-provoking achievement. I am bracing myself for the undertaking of Satantango.
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