Friday, July 18, 2008

WERCKMEISTER HARMONIES (Béla Tarr, 2000, Hungary)

Music is the language of the gods…and the gods lie. What begins as a celestial ballet ends in chaos and confusion even though the eclipse has ended. Amid a stark cold winter in a small Hungarian town, a corrugated tin trailer appears like a leviathan slowly surfacing in the dark surf. The Prince of lies hides behind this decomposing Lovecraftian nightmare. His hateful words instigate the villagers, who are like violent lost children, towards a cleansing, a purging of the weak and sick. The rampaging townsfolk assault and murder patients in a hospital, their humanity sacrificed to the Prince of deception, their allegiance pledged to Death.

We experience the madness through Jànos whose gaunt visage haunts the film, his sunken eyes starring into the Abyss seeking revelation. But his soul is swallowed by the Whale and, after the tempest, vomited out broken and desolate forgotten by everyone but his uncle. Béla Tarr’s bleak vision strips bare human nature and reveals the animal inside: hidden and repressed but always present. His deep focus black and white photography creates a foreboding sense of doom because it grimly depicts reality’s hidden side with characters disappearing into the pervasive fog and darkness.

The narrative is driven by visual and aural language: each languid frame an emotional composition and the rhythm of clacking boots, shuffling feet like a lonely harmony. 

Final Grade: (A)

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