7.3/10
1,287
22 user 35 critic

Institute Benjamenta, or This Dream That One Calls Human Life (1995)

Institute Benjamenta, or This Dream People Call Human Life (original title)
Trailer
1:22 | Trailer
Jakob arrives at the Institute Benjamenta (run by brother and sister Johannes and Lisa Benjamenta) to learn to become a servant. With seven other men, he studies under Lisa: absurd lessons ... See full summary »
Reviews
4 wins & 3 nominations. See more awards »

Videos

Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Drama | Fantasy | Music
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  

Dark fairy-tale about a demonic doctor who abducts a beautiful opera singer with designs on transforming her into a mechanical nightingale.

Directors: Stephen Quay, Timothy Quay
Stars: Amira Casar, Gottfried John, Assumpta Serna
Animation | Short | Fantasy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

A man closes up a lecture hall; he reaches into a box and snips the string holding a gaunt puppet. Released, the puppet warily explores the darkened rooms about him. Screws twist out of ... See full summary »

Directors: Stephen Quay, Timothy Quay
Stars: Feliks Stawinski
Short | Music
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  
Directors: Stephen Quay, Timothy Quay
Stars: Simon Keenlyside, Kenneth Tharp, Zenaida Yanowsky
Animation | Short | Music
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  
Directors: Stephen Quay, Timothy Quay
Animation | Short
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

In Prague, a professorial puppet, with metal pincers for hands and an open book for a hat, takes a boy as a pupil. First, the professor empties fluff and toys from the child's head, leaving... See full summary »

Directors: Keith Griffiths, Stephen Quay, and 1 more credit »
The Comb (1991)
Short | Animation
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
Directors: Stephen Quay, Timothy Quay
Stars: Joy Constaninides, Witold Scheybal
Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

In "Landscape Suicide" Benning continues his examination of Americana through the stories of two murderers. Ed Gein was a Wisconsin farmer and multiple murderer who taxidermied his victims ... See full summary »

Director: James Benning
Stars: Rhonda Bell, Elion Sucher
In Absentia (2000)
Short | Animation
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

A woman sits alone on a chair at a table in a room on one of the top floors of an asylum. Bright spot lights dot the night, sometimes shining on her window. She sharpens pencils and writes ... See full summary »

Directors: Stephen Quay, Timothy Quay
Stars: Marlene Kaminsky
Animation | Short
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

Loosely based on the Mesopotamian "Epic of Gilgamesh", here Gilgamesh is portrayed as a grotesque, Picasso-esque being who uses a tricycle to patrol his box-shaped kingdom that hovers above a dark abyss.

Directors: Keith Griffiths, Stephen Quay, and 1 more credit »
Lesson Faust (1994)
Animation | Comedy | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

A very free adaptation of Marlowe's 'Doctor Faustus', Goethe's 'Faust' and various other treatments of the old legend of the man who sold his soul to the devil. Svankmajer's Faust is a ... See full summary »

Director: Jan Svankmajer
Stars: Petr Cepek, Jan Kraus, Vladimír Kudla
Short
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

Uses animation to explore anamorphosis, a method to put hidden images within an artwork, by distorting it using the rules of perspective.

Directors: Stephen Quay, Timothy Quay
Stars: Witold Scheybal
The Corridor (1995)
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

The atmosphere of a corridor between yesterday and tomorrow, where many doors open into the unknown.

Director: Sarunas Bartas
Stars: Daiva Ksivickiene, Mantvydas Janeliunas, Viacheslav Amirhanian
Edit

Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
...
...
Daniel Smith ...
Joseph Alessi ...
Pepino
Jonathan Stone ...
Hebling
César Sarachu ...
Inigo (as Cesar Sarachu)
Peter Lovstrom ...
Jorgenson
Uri Roodner ...
Schilinski
Peter Whitfield ...
Null
Edit

Storyline

Jakob arrives at the Institute Benjamenta (run by brother and sister Johannes and Lisa Benjamenta) to learn to become a servant. With seven other men, he studies under Lisa: absurd lessons of movement, drawing circles, and servility. He asks for a better room. No other students arrive and none leave for employment. Johannes is unhappy, imperious, and detached from the school's operation. Lisa is beautiful, at first tightly controlled, then on the verge of breakdown. There's a whiff of incest. Jakob is drawn to Lisa, and perhaps she to him. As winter sets in, she becomes catatonic. Things get worse; Johannes notes that all this has happened since Jakob came. Is there any cause and effect? Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Animation | Drama

Certificate:

See all certifications »
Edit

Details

Country:

| |

Language:

|

Release Date:

23 August 1996 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Institute Benjamenta, or This Dream That One Calls Human Life  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See  »
Edit

Did You Know?

Quotes

Lisa Benjamenta: I am dying from the emptiness of cautious and clever people.
See more »

Connections

Version of Jakob von Gunten (1971) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

Unfolds like a dream… but does it mean anything?
7 April 2002 | by (UK) – See all my reviews

Not for all tastes, Institute Benjamenta is like David Lynch's The Elephant Man via the works of Bergman and silent expressionism. Every single frame in the bizarre odyssey is tightly composed and beautifully printed in black and white. The use of shifts in focus and depth, and the wild juxtapositions of the most mundane actions, allowing them to take on any number of connotations only heightens the floating dream like atmosphere, as we are dumped into this world with no idea of what is going on, or what is going to happen. But this film is terribly slow (this is were the Bergman element comes into play), and it's a test of the viewer's concentration to see the film through. But unlike Bergman, Institute Benjamenta does not pay off at the end, nor does it leave the viewer puzzled, conflicted and desperate to experience the film again (ala Persona).

Instead Institute Benjamenta just ends, and personally I have no desire to watch the film again, I felt I got everything I could and wanted to gain from the experience. The acting was good, suitably distant and with the right level of cold detachment, but there was a constant feeling the actors were plating second fiddle to the sumptuous visuals put on show by the famed animators the brothers Quay. It's sad that they have yet to make another live action film, as the wealth of great ideas and knowledge of film-making displayed in Institute Benjamenta is one-hundred times better than most of the recent films I've seen, if the Brothers had put a little more time into the depth of the narrative, they could have backed up those haunting images with some much needed substance.

This is not a film for everyone, as I have already stated. The nonsensical narrative and bursts of surrealism will undoubtedly put off some viewers, but this is a film that should have a wider audience. In a cinematic world of conventions and formulas the brothers Quay made a film that, although by no means great, showed originality and definite promise, that makes Institute Benjamenta a film worthy of cult classic status.


15 of 21 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
Widescreen version on DVD? parasoft
DVD cover kamil_g
Love at first sight! bcurran05

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for:
?