24 user 38 critic

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

Institute Benjamenta, or This Dream People Call Human Life (original title)
A young man goes to a school for servants run by a brother and sister. In the dreamlike and surreal world that he enters, how will his presence impact the people there and possibly even the school itself?
4 wins & 3 nominations. See more awards »





Complete credited cast:
Mark Rylance ... Jakob
Alice Krige ... Lisa Benjamenta
Gottfried John ... Herr Benjamenta
Daniel Smith Daniel Smith ... Kraus
Joseph Alessi Joseph Alessi ... Pepino
Jonathan Stone Jonathan Stone ... Hebling
César Sarachu ... Inigo (as Cesar Sarachu)
Peter Lovstrom ... Jorgenson
Uri Roodner Uri Roodner ... Schilinski
Peter Whitfield Peter Whitfield ... Null


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>

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Did You Know?


Spoken at beginning of movie: Who dares it, has no courage. To whom it is missing, feels well. Who owns it, is bitterly poor. Who is successful, is damaged. Who gives it, is hard as hard as stone. Who loves it, stays alone. See more »


Jakob: I shall never let myself be rescued, nor shall I ever rescue anybody.
See more »


Version of Jakob von Gunten (1971) See more »

User Reviews

27 January 1999 | by Dave-369See all my reviews

The first time I saw this movie, I fell asleep--but I don't blame the movie at all. I was tired. Before I fell asleep, I found it frustrating and oblique. But when I woke up, suddenly the dream logic of the movie seemed to make sense. Then I saw it again.

Often compared to Eraserhead, I think this movie has much, much more to offer than Lynch's first feature. Institute Benjamenta doesn't have any kind of decoder...in fact, it refuses any. Filmed in a hazy, drowsy black-and-white, with scenes of flat, if surreal, simplicity, interspersed with dreamy, nonsensical interludes, it must be accepted before it can be enjoyed.

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Release Date:

23 August 1996 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

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

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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