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Werckmeister Harmonies

Director: Bela Tarr

2001.English subtitles.Black and white.Dolby digital stereo.145 mins.


In Werckmeister Harmonies, the film that seems likely to provide the director ‘s breakthrough into the art-house market, Tarr has adapted Laszlo Krasznahorkai’s novel The Melancholy of Resistance, the main section of which is entitled Werckmeister Harmonies .There are obvious thematic parallels with Satantango . The setting is a provincial town cut off by ice, but there are also unclear rumours of events to come o this time robbery,violence and maybe apocalypse. A travelling circus comes to town offering to exhibit the biggest whale in the world,accompanied by a mysterious and uncontrollable figure referred to as ‘The Prince’, who has the capacity to attract violent followers and whose presence alone is sufficient to trigger his policies of destruction.
By normal standards the film’s style is radical, but it is more subject to the demands of Krasznahorka’s story than either Damnation or Satantango. Werckmeister Harmonies is essentially a faithful account of the novel,with the long takes and the sense of time, place and sound providing a visual equivalent to the enveloping prose of the original. The Tarr/Krasznahorkai films are never far from the threats of apocalypse and damnation, but it is also clear that they offer no easy interpretation. The audience is invited to work towards its own reading.

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