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Werckmeister Harmonies (2000)

Werckmeister harmóniák (original title)
An innocent young man witnesses violence breaks 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".


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Lars Rudolph ...
János Valuska
Peter Fitz ...
György Eszter
Tünde Eszter
János Derzsi ...
Man In The Broad-Cloth Coat
Djoko Rosic ...
Man In Western Boots (as Djoko Rossich)
Tamás Wichmann ...
Man In The Sailor-Cap
Ferenc Kállai ...
Putyi Horváth ...
Porter (as dr. Horváth Putyi)
Enikö Börcsök
Éva Almássy Albert ...
Aunt Piri (as Almási Albert Éva)
Irén Szajki ...
Mrs. Harrer
Alfréd Járai ...
Lajos Harrer
György Barkó ...
Mr. Nadabán
Lajos Dobák ...
Mr. Volent


This story takes place in a small town on the Hungarian Plain. In a provincial town, which is surrounded with nothing else but frost. It is bitterly cold weather - without snow. Even in this bewildered cold hundreds of people are standing around the circus trailer, which is put up in the main square, to see - as the outcome of their wait - the chief attraction, the stuffed carcass of a real whale. The people are coming from everywhere. From the neighboring settlings, even from quite far away parts of the country. They are following this clumsy monster as a dumb, faceless, rag-wearing crowd. This strange state of affairs - the appearance of the foreigners, the extreme frost - disturbs the order of the small town. Aambitious personages of the story feel they can take advantage of this situation. The tension growing to the unbearable is brought to explosion by the figure of the Prince, who is pretending facelessness. Even his mere appearance is enough to break loose destructive emotions.... Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Drama | Mystery


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Release Date:

1 February 2001 (Hungary)  »

Also Known As:

A Harmonia Werckmeister  »

Filming Locations:

Box Office


FRF 10,000,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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Did You Know?


The film is composed of 39 languidly paced tracking shots. See more »


Janos finds Lajos, who is supposedly dead, yet you can clearly see the actor breathing. See more »


György Eszter: I have to make it clear that not even for a moment is there doubt that it is not a technical but a philosophical question. So that the tonal system in question, through researches, has led us inevitably to a test of faith, in which we ask: on what do we base our belief that this harmony, the core of every masterpiece, referring to its own irrevocability, actually exists or not. From this it follows that we should speak of, not research into music, but a unique realization of non-music which for...
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Referenced in Paris, je t'aime (2006) See more »


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User Reviews

Demanding, but rewarding
21 August 2000 | by See all my reviews

Imagine it. You spend four years on a project, with big funding hassles and changes in crew; and then, finally, after your film is very enthusiastically received at Cannes, the lab goes and destroys the only English-subtitled print before it's shown at the Edinburgh festival. Obviously Bela Tarr doesn't have his sorrows to seek.

Some might accuse the film--which centres on a rural town riven by the arrival of a "circus" consisting only of a dead white whale in a corrugated iron trailer and a character called "The Prince" whose nihilistic and inflammatory remarks incite riots--of veering very close to a parody of miserabilist cinema. Okay, so it's in black and white; there's a lot of mud, rubbish, smoke and wetness; there's not much dialogue between not very attractive people; every take lasts between five and ten minutes; and there are many scenes of people trudging through cold and bleak landscapes. (You'll never see so much trudging in a film.) Lars Rudolph, as the hero Janos, looks like a cross between a young Klaus Kinski and Frasier's brother, Niles, and spends most of the film wild-eyed and harried.

However, Tarr's distinctive style--exceptionally fluid and intricate tracking shots rendered in beautifully sharp monochrome--perfectly matches the grim story, which, as the director pointed out, explores the "boundaries between civilisation and barbarism". Any seemingly parodic moments are far outweighed by extremely powerful ones, notably the opening scene in a pub where the hero explains what an eclipse is using the sozzled bar clientele; the hero's deeply unsettling encounter with the "Prince"; and the mob's attack on a hospital.

Although the narrative falls apart a bit in its closing scenes, the film's images stay with the viewer in ways unmatched much recent cinema. This film demands your time and concentration, but rewards them; it has a unique and mesmerising rhythm. And the music, by Mihaly Vig, is simply beautiful.

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