Werckmeister Harmonies

User Score
7.6

Generally favorable reviews- based on 71 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 51 out of 71
  2. Negative: 13 out of 71
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  1. AndresZ.
    Jun 16, 2007
    10
    Bela Tarr's surreal epic is an advance in pure avant-garde mastery - proof of Tarr's rise to power in Hungary. There are only 39 shots in the film, yet all are evocative of the presence of true magic. Along side with the great roles in the film, Tarr's mise-en-scene is flawless at capturing the fear and atmospheric in its perfectly realized milieu. By far, "Werckmeister Bela Tarr's surreal epic is an advance in pure avant-garde mastery - proof of Tarr's rise to power in Hungary. There are only 39 shots in the film, yet all are evocative of the presence of true magic. Along side with the great roles in the film, Tarr's mise-en-scene is flawless at capturing the fear and atmospheric in its perfectly realized milieu. By far, "Werckmeister Harmonies" is, in every sense of the word, a masterpiece. Expand
  2. Feb 20, 2011
    8
    Skillfully structured - There are those filmmakers that have the ability to change our perception of film as a medium for telling stories through images and dialog, communicating with a universal audience and creating awareness. Directors like Campion, Loach, Bergman, Kubrick, Kieslowski and Tarkovsky are certainly some of those, and i had a similar experience after watchingSkillfully structured - There are those filmmakers that have the ability to change our perception of film as a medium for telling stories through images and dialog, communicating with a universal audience and creating awareness. Directors like Campion, Loach, Bergman, Kubrick, Kieslowski and Tarkovsky are certainly some of those, and i had a similar experience after watching Bèla Tarr`s third feature, co-directed by Agnes Hranitzky, which tells the story of an utterly cold Hungarian town where the inhabitants await the arrival of a traveling circus which main attractions are a giant whale and a deformed speaking figure called The Prince. Most of the residents are suspicious about the upcoming event, but the local postman named Janus perceives it as a good sign.

    While viewing this film i instantly began thinking of other east European directors such as Alexandr Sokurov, Theo Angelopoulos and Andrei Zvyagintsev who's film are marked by their focus on visual composition, length, long takes and concise dialog. Bèla Tarr's dark and tender vision of life in a remote provincial town is filmed in black and white, contains 39 long takes during a runtime of 225 minutes, is told through long monologues and concentrated dialog, uses natural sounds and has an unforgettable instrumental theme song composed by the directors longtime companion Mihàly Vig. This theme song and the refined black and white photography which was created by four photographers, evokes the collective state of mind of the citizens in the town and elevates the powerful moods which becomes a large character within this skillfully structured film. "Werckmeister Harmonies" an adaptation of a novel called "The Melancholy Of Resistance" which was written by Làszlò Krazsnahorkai in 1989 and the movie title refers to Andreas Wercmeister (1645-1706), a composer from the Baroque era and a musical theorist. It is a chronologically narrated character study about a man who's faith is immensely challenged when he begins to realize what is actually happening to the human kind he so firmly believes in. The story written by Bèla Tarr and Làszlò Krazsnahorkai follows the main character during the course of one eventful day as he walks through the streets of his hometown looking for signs that will confirm his believes. The caring and childishly curious Janus is brought to life by German actor Lars Rudolph who appeared in Hal Hartley's "Flirt" (1995) and Tom Tykwer's "The Princess and the Warrior" (2000). With a mysterious face that expresses a string of emotions and a subtly underplayed performance, he creates a rare and intriguing character. I consider this slow-paced fictional drama as a small masterpiece that communicates it's message with conviction and tells a credible story that is not hard to follow, but not always easy to watch. Bèla Tarr and Agnes Hranitzky's directing is commendable, their realized vision is magnificent, the acting is overall convincing, the opening scene is a striking example of cinematic art and what eventually puts all the pieces together and pointedly contrasts the common feelings of sadness that imprisons the souls of this film, is Hungarian composer, poet and songwriter Mihàly Vig`s spiritual music.
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  3. AdrianChan
    Dec 30, 2006
    10
    Bela Tarr's Werckmeister Harmonies: Can human bodies take up heavenly relations?
    Bela Tarr's Werckmeister Harmonies: Can human bodies take up heavenly relations?

    "The first is Hamlet's great formula, 'The time is out of joint.' Time is out of joint, time is unhinged. The hinges are the axis around which the door turns. Cardo, in Latin, designates the subordination of time to the cardinal points through which the periodical movements that it measures pass. As long as time remains on its hinges, it is subordinate to movement: it is the measure of movement, interval or number. This was the view of ancient philosophy. But time out of joint signifies the reversal of the movement-time relationship. It is now movement which is subordinate to time. Everything changes, including movement. We move from one labyrinth to another. The labyrinth is no longer a circle, or a spiral which would translate its complications, but a thread, a straight line, all the more mysterious for being simple, inexorable as Borges says, 'the labyrinth which is composed of a single straight line, and which is indivisible, incessant.' Time is no longer related to the movement which it measures, but movement is related to the time which conditions it: this is the first great Kantian reversal in the Critique of Pure Reason." Gilles Deleuze, Preface "On four poetic formulas which might summarize the Kantian philosophy", Kant's Critical Philosophy, vii.
    And might not the last sentence of this first paragraph in Deleuze's brilliant and brief study of Kant, be a statement about film?
    "Time is no longer related to the movement which it measures, but movement is related to the time which conditions it: this is the first great achievement of film..."
    Ever since film began to un-spool its own version of time at 24 frames per second, synthesizing it through simple optical illusion and the narrative innovations of montage (editing), film-makers have enjoyed the magic of imaginary time. And on occasion, a film-maker arrives who has an entirely different sense of time, a different breath, a gait out of step with the rhythms of time common to the moving picture.
    Bela Tarr is one of those film-makers. And while he is often compared with the Russian master Andrei Tarkovsky (also a time-maker), Bela Tarr's temporalities are material, where Tarkovsky's are often symbolic and visual.
    Asked once why the scene of villagers marching towards the town square in Werckmeister Harmonies lasted as long as it did, the director answered, simply, "that's how long it took to get there."
    As simple as this is for an answer, there is something else at work in Tarr's camera work. Werckmeister Harmonies, at over 2 hours, contains only 39 shots. It took the director a day to edit together. But the effect of storytelling in so few shots is not just a reduction to the straightforward and direct capture of time. He is, I think, making film think with the body; and it is the body which, set in motion, resides in time.
    Werckmeister Harmonies opens with a shot of town drunks in a bar enacting the orbits of the planets. A lone bulb hangs from the ceiling as the men spin and tumble slowly about the room, their bodies taking up heavenly relations. And this is what they do throughout the rest of the film: bodies move and are moved, they plod along empty roads by night; they gather in tedious crowds; they assemble for a march on the town square; they pillage a hospital; they walk adjacent to one another (there is a two minute tracking shot for which the director laid down over 300m of rail). And as the villagers in Werckmeister Harmonies are set in motion, so too is the viewer. Tarr makes the viewer think his film, and live its time, with him. I have watched as friends adjust their seats during many a shot, their own physicality coming under the spell of Tarr's temporality.
    Can bodies think? Can minds think without bodies? Can we have social relations as heavenly as the relations among the heavenly bodies? Tarr's opening shot, in which we found the drunks losing themselves to vertiginal rotations, culminates with an eclipse. Tarr shows us an eclipse, an eclipse in the heavens, staged by village drunks. Light, obscured, is not darkness, as time, out of joint, is not motion.
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  4. RezaT
    Jun 24, 2008
    10
    Abbas Kiarostami`s career died a couple of years ago when he started using digital Cameras. I was depressed for a couple of years as I felt true artistic cinema has died. Thanks to Béla Tarr I realized I was wrong.
  5. nickp
    Jul 22, 2008
    10
    Mysterious, dark and beautiful. I feel like I still don't fully understand it after watching it 3 times but still amazing.
  6. davidg
    Jun 13, 2009
    10
    If this is not among the top 10% of the thousands of movies that have been released in the world in the last hundred years, there must be a huge disconnect between popularity and quality: a problem with the idea of voting for the good itself.
  7. seank
    Aug 5, 2009
    10
    Everything about this movie clicked for me. The acting was perfect, the long takes were mesmerizing, the symbolism was powerful, the metaphorical relationship of music to nature and man-made control, and everything else this movie had to offer was absolutely perfect. I loved it.
  8. ImreT.
    Jan 11, 2006
    10
    If you want to keep something with you after walk out from the cinema, it's absolutely for you. I saw it last week, but I can't stop to say to my best friends "you have to watch this". I've never thought that a film can make so much questions for me like this.
  9. JimB.
    Jan 28, 2006
    10
    One of the finest movies ever made. Tarr has created a masterpiece which explores the relationship between superstition, fear, and totalitarianism, featuring some of the most magnificent photography in the history of cinema. A must-see, if such a thing exists.
  10. EdmundL.
    Apr 11, 2006
    10
    Absolutely one of the most incredibly gripping, moving and astonishing works of film art I've ever seen. Certainly, it's not a movie you just throw on to pass the time--but that is not what the director intended. Like Tarkovsky before him, Tarr's sumptuous long take style renders the viewer mesmerized until a well-placed shift in action and tone prove devastating and Absolutely one of the most incredibly gripping, moving and astonishing works of film art I've ever seen. Certainly, it's not a movie you just throw on to pass the time--but that is not what the director intended. Like Tarkovsky before him, Tarr's sumptuous long take style renders the viewer mesmerized until a well-placed shift in action and tone prove devastating and gasp-inducing. Not an easy film. But for those looking for something deeper, richer and more mysterious than the usual cineplex fare, this one will blow you away. Expand
  11. JonasRiiseH.
    May 18, 2006
    10
    This is magic.
  12. BobA
    Jan 6, 2007
    10
    I know I'm supposed to comment more on the film than the other comments but I always thought that if you disliked a film then by all means lay into it with vigor. But to criticize those who disagree with you instead is cheap. If the only way you can comprehend those with differing opinions is by considering them to be idiots, then that's pretty darn sad. Werckmeister Harmonies I know I'm supposed to comment more on the film than the other comments but I always thought that if you disliked a film then by all means lay into it with vigor. But to criticize those who disagree with you instead is cheap. If the only way you can comprehend those with differing opinions is by considering them to be idiots, then that's pretty darn sad. Werckmeister Harmonies is a long, quite, difficult film that represents the best in art cinema. If you're a fan of Tsai Ming-Liang or Tarkovsky, you'll love this. If you don't like it after 10 minutes you wont like it after 2 and a half hours, turn it off and do something else. Cheers! Expand
  13. AlexD
    Oct 2, 2007
    9
    Reading user comments is hilarious. I love it when someone like Brad C. below stumbles unwittingly into a challenging experiment like this one, it flies over his head, and he ends up raging against his own befuddlement. Hey Brad: poorly filmed? Really? I know you were bored, but those long takes are objectively, undeniably masterful in execution. And pointless? I'd say you just Reading user comments is hilarious. I love it when someone like Brad C. below stumbles unwittingly into a challenging experiment like this one, it flies over his head, and he ends up raging against his own befuddlement. Hey Brad: poorly filmed? Really? I know you were bored, but those long takes are objectively, undeniably masterful in execution. And pointless? I'd say you just didn't get any of its many, complicated "points." In any case, a completely mesmerizing experience, for those hip to Bella Tarr's out-there wavelength. Expand
  14. ArmanddeL.
    Jul 11, 2004
    10
    Viva la hongrie!
  15. DonnyB.
    Feb 16, 2002
    9
    The previous user had no clue, this is a film of mind-boggling talent (both in content and technique) that will have you thinking throughout. And probably for many days afterwards. And maybe that's why the other guy didn't like it. There were no car chases, no nerdy kids gettting a makeover or misunderstood loners. Turn on your TV and watch the movie of the week on TBS, you idiot.
  16. ChadS.
    Dec 21, 2002
    7
    Astonishingly slow pace is compensated somewhat by some striking black and white photography and a whale. Your jaw will drop at some of the long takes. It's a small miracle that a film like this found distribution. You won't want to see a mob run towards the camera for five minutes again, but you'll have fun relaying this fact to other movie buffs.
  17. SamJ.
    Oct 4, 2002
    10
    A brilliant and arresting meditation on alienation and political oppression. Some of the most searing images in any modern-day art film, the picture boasts unforgettable music and brilliant photography in gorgeous black and white.
  18. YoonMinC.
    Sep 29, 2003
    10
    Something like Tarkovsky crossed with David Lynch.. intellectually challenging, even labyrinthine, spiritually despairing, a vision of armageddon following the collapse of socialism in Eastern Europe which gave rise to all sorts of deformities in thought and behavior. If one looks at 20th century, the two great ideologies of communism and fascism envisioned apocalyptic violence beyond Something like Tarkovsky crossed with David Lynch.. intellectually challenging, even labyrinthine, spiritually despairing, a vision of armageddon following the collapse of socialism in Eastern Europe which gave rise to all sorts of deformities in thought and behavior. If one looks at 20th century, the two great ideologies of communism and fascism envisioned apocalyptic violence beyond which lay promise of utopia, racial or egalitarian. But, the destruction that looms over a town in Werckmeister Symphonies has no agenda. It's political violence as a drunken orgy in a whorehouse; nothing lies beyond the orgasm. It's a vision of man's return to primitivism, trapped between discredited and discarded utopian ideologies and the faraway and unattainable allure of triumphant capitalism. Troubling and bleak but at the very least restores our faith in the power of great art. Expand
Metascore
92

Universal acclaim - based on 8 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 8 out of 8
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 8
  3. Negative: 0 out of 8
  1. This is as challenging as movies come, alluding to everything from philosopher Thomas Hobbes to the history of Western music.
  2. Reviewed by: Derek Elley
    90
    A stunning feature -- another hypnotic meditation on popular demagogy and mental manipulation.
  3. 80
    A work of bravura filmmaking.