SHERDOG MOVIE CLUB: Week 194 - Werckmeister Harmonies (2000)

Discussion in 'Mayberry Lounge' started by europe1, Jan 22, 2020.

  1. europe1 It´s a nice peninsula to Asia

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    NOTE to NON-MEMBERS: Interested in joining the SHERDOG MOVIE CLUB? Shoot me a PM for more info!

    Here's a quick list of all movies watched by the SMC. Or if you prefer, here's a more detailed examination.

    [​IMG]
    Our Director

    Bela Tarr
    [​IMG]

    Look! He's weird. Alright!?​
    Our Star

    It's that fucker who saved Hitler in "Guess Whose Back!" No, seriously! It's fucking him! Our Star is the Hitler-saver!
    [​IMG]
    Film Overview


    Premise:
    An innocent young man witnesses violence break out after an isolated village is inflamed by the arrival of a circus and its peculiar attractions: a giant whale and a mysterious man named "The Prince."

    Budget: Hungary

    Box Office: Hungarian
    Trivia
    (courtesy of IMDB)


    * The film is composed of 39 languidly paced tracking shots.

    * Director Béla Tarr spent almost a year finding the right square for some scenes in the film.

    *During the shooting the temperature dropped to -15 degrees Celsius.

    *The film was made with 6 cameramen: one American, two Hungarians, two Germans and one Frenchman.

    *The shadow of bald-headed person was used to depict the Prince in the way to resemble communist revolutionary V.I. Lenin.

    * The film is included on Roger Ebert's "Great Movies" list.
    Members: @europe1 @MusterX @sweetviolenturg @FrontNakedChoke @chickenluver @Scott Parker 27 @Yotsuya @jei @LHWBelt @HARRISON_3 @Bubzeh @moreorless87 @HenryFlower @Zer
     
  2. LHWBelt Gold Belt

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    Just a heads up for those that are like me and only watch if their streaming platforms have this. None of mine do BUT you tube has it with English subtitles. It's a part one and part two but I just clicked it and the quality seems fine.
     
  3. Bubzeh Silver Belt

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    Hungarian fml...
     
  4. Scott Parker 27 Your Mom's Box

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    Will try to get to this during the week but I may not have time. Crazily renovating a home on a tight deadline.
     
  5. moreorless87 Straba

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    Actually been awhile since I watched it but I would say don't go into this with the expectation its going to be some arthouse mystery to unravel ala say Last Year At Marienbad, its really more about creating an atmospheric tone and a lot of the detail is deliberately vague.
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2020
  6. moreorless87 Straba

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    Have I killed the SMC? ;)

    Rewatching this(plus Khrustalyov My Car! and Hard to Be a God) recently does for me highlight what extended camera takes can achieve. They've become a bit of a gimmick more recently but having a single shot unfolding over several mins really should IMHO provide the chance for interesting camera movements/compositions that build up the drama.

    For me anyway its interesting to consider exactly what form the development of these films take, Tarr and even moreso German tended to spend many years on them yet they are very much visual films were camera/cast movement on set is a lot of the appeal rather than detailed scripting. I'm guessing a lot of pre visualisation/storyboarding?
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2020
  7. Zer Steel Belt

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    I started watching this yesterday but got interrupted and had to go out. First impressions were that I can't get over the guy looking like MacGruber

    [​IMG]

    If he doesn't rip at least one throat out I'll be very disappointed
     
  8. moreorless87 Straba

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    You can't make him out well ala The King in True Romance but Val Kilmer actually plays The Prince.
     
  9. LHWBelt Gold Belt

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    It's a pretty obscure film so of course numbers are going to be down, which they are anyways I reckon. I'm trying to get to it my son just ain't been napping recently so there isn't much chance for me.
     
  10. LHWBelt Gold Belt

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    I actually love macgruber lol
     
  11. moreorless87 Straba

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    Has it gone out of print in the US? I picked that Tarr film not just because its generally the best reguarded but because its pretty easy/cheap to get hold of in the UK.
     
  12. Bullitt68 Senior Moderator Staff Member Senior Moderator

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    Speaking for myself, I was checking out movies from my two local libraries last week, and back in the day, I checked out Werckmeister Harmonies from one of those libraries. I was planning on doing so again, but it's not there anymore. They just decided to ditch it. The only way that I'd be able to get a library copy would be an interlibrary loan from a branch like an hour away from me.

    Of course, it is 2020, so I can also just find it online, but it was a bummer that I couldn't just grab the DVD. Instead, I (re)watched a bunch of Kieślowski stuff. But I'm planning on watching The Turin Horse for the first time but only after I've rewatched Werckmeister Harmonies, so a non-member guest post will be coming in here in the near future ;)
     
  13. HenryFlower (sheesh!)

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    okay i finally got around to my parents’ house to get my DVD copy (i only took my blurays & left my dvds in storage at their place when i moved out. ended up having to grab a whole bunch of other movies because i forgot how many awesome movies i have on dvd), so i’ll be coming in fashionably late w/ my input. all i remember from the first time i watched it is how mystical, yet grim, the atmosphere is. how typical of Tarr, ofc.

    i’ll also use this throwaway post to let those who are interested know that Sátántagó is finally being released on bluray at some point this year. the Arbelos website still has it listed as “Coming Soon” but hopefully a release date will be announced soon.
     
  14. moreorless87 Straba

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    I actually think Werckmeister is Tarr becoming rather more self aware, it includes all the kind of things you'd expect from him but compared to say Damnation pushes them a bit more over the top.

    Theme wise I don't think its anything THAT specific, more a kind of general look at Hungarian recent history with pent up communist and capitalist revolutions.
     
  15. europe1 It´s a nice peninsula to Asia

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    So... yeah I kinda hated this movie. I said that I was glad that Wings over Berlin and Lazarova didn't win since I'd have been loath to rewatch the former and mellow on the later but... I'd probably prefer those two to this one.:)

    So theme-wise -- I think this movie is pretty obvious. Their world is dilapidated, meaningless and indignant. The sole source of wonder in Janos life is encountering that whale (which I do admit inspired the one genuine emotion in the film). The rabble-rousing Prince (a clear Lenin stand-in) is basically stating a whole load of nothing that inspires people to commit act of violence for seemingly no reason what so ever, save some strain of nihilism I suppose.

    "There is disillusionment in everything. They don't know why. But the Prince knows full well. It's because the whole is nothing."

    That's either a woeful mistranslation of Hungarian. Or a brilliant way to say nothing at all.:p

    See, I got the exact opposite reaction.

    You know how in movies, the director sometimes allow their cameras to linger much longer than they normally would? Or film some utterly mundane activity to hit home with a particular message? Well, that's all Bela is doing. And by making a rarified technique ordinary -- he robs said legerdemain of its power. It just becomes time-wasters. Another wait for something to happen.

    I mean, to make the comparison with Tarakovskies Stalker, he does something similar. But at least he is filming some fantastical landscape, something which we are supposed to imbue meaning with. Bela Tarr is literally just filming faces as they walk down a road for 60 seconds. I don't mean to brag or anything, but I look at faces every day of my life.

    I dunno. I kind of got the impression that Bela wanted to make something meaningless, boring and disinteresting. Comment on the run-down nature of Hungary's history with communism and poverty, or what have you. Sure he succeeded in doing that. But that still just means he created something disinteresting.

    EDIT: Like how he shoots that hospital plundering (why are they attacking a hospital again?) there is no normal filmic cue to their beatdown. No cuts or musical sting or anything like that. There isn't even an emotion of savagery in the proceedings due to how slapdash and unconvincing the abuse is staged. Just showing some beatdowns. And the whole impression is like... okay?
     
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2020
  16. Zer Steel Belt

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    Believe it or not back when I was a proper movie snob I watched all of Satantango. Werckmeister felt like more of the same tbh. My problem with these movies (As well as directors like Lynch (Who I love)) is I suck with subtext and hidden meaning and I only enjoy them on an aesthetic level. I actually enjoyed Satantango and Werckmeister on that surface level because I've always been fascinated by Eastern Europe as a setting, and Eastern European poverty as an aesthetic. There are shots and scenes that stayed with me (With Werckmeister I predict they'll stay with me anyway)











    But saying none of this has the visual appeal of a Tarkovsky movie since @europe1 brought him up. I suck with Tarkovsky's underlying themes too but aesthetically his movies are a different level. Tarr movies to me are a collection of pictures of poverty and hopelessness and the mundane which a part of me can dig but they don't have the emotional impact you would expect from a movie with the resources they have to generate feels. It's kind of like walking through a museum and it's tough to be invested (Being a dumbass with subtext obv doesn't help)
     
  17. moreorless87 Straba

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    Neither of them tend to use camera movement to get across sudden action its true (although Tarkovsky does sometimes) but rather slowly building atmopshere/tension. Something like Janos walking down the street at the start getting more and more distant for example building up the loneliness of the setting or the shot of him in the hotel building up the uncomfortableness with the clark's talk of obtuse unrest.

    I'm guessing Aleksei German(was kind of hoping people would choose that) might be a little more up your street, the same kind of extended takes but rather than slow and lingering he fills them with constant movement and action, extras everywhere almost performing for the camera, steaming kettles, things failing over, etc.

    Stalker maybe a little different as it does have a lot of discussion between the characters but generally I would say these kinds of films function via atmosphere, I spose maybe a question of whether you want that out of cinema? personally that tends to be what I rank most highly whether its in stuff like this or more conventional cinema(part of why I like a lot of more ambitious horror). The again I spose I'm a landscape photographer who enjoys standing in misty woodland for hours. <45>

    I would say Tarr's relative lack of variety means I do tend to watch his stuff less often than the other names mentioned, certainly an argument he's been making variations of the same film for 30+ years.
     
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2020

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