7.1/10
1,665
24 user 36 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
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?
Reviews
4 wins & 3 nominations. See more awards »

Videos

Photos

Learn more

More Like This 

Drama | Fantasy | Music
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 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
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 7.7/10 X  

Inside a box full of curio, a puppet who is recently freed from his strings explores a dusty and forlorn commercial area. The explorer becomes ensnared into miniature tailor shop by baby-faced dolls.

Directors: Stephen Quay, Timothy Quay
Stars: Feliks Stawinski
Animation | Short
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

Oscillating hands each hold a pen; a man made of wire has a malevolent look and an oscillating eye as he pokes at a bump on his forehead

Directors: Stephen Quay, Timothy Quay
Greedy Guts (2000)
Animation | Comedy | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

When a childless couple learn that they cannot have children, it causes great distress. To ease his wife's pain, the man finds a piece of root in the backyard and chops it and varnishes it into the shape of a child. However the woman takes the root as her baby and starts to pretend that it is real. When the root takes life they seem to have gained a child; but its appetite is much greater than a ... See full summary »

Director: Jan Svankmajer
Stars: Veronika Zilková, Jan Hartl, Jaroslava Kretschmerová
Alice (1988)
Animation | Adventure | Fantasy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

A surrealistic revision of Alice in Wonderland.

Director: Jan Svankmajer
Stars: Kristýna Kohoutová, Camilla Power
Animation | Short
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

A magnet moves on a floor. A moth beats against a window. A doll child watches the magnet; threads of metal filings gather around the magnet. The doll, who's sitting at a table, looks in a ... See full summary »

Directors: Stephen Quay, Timothy Quay
Documentary | History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.6/10 X  

Part documentary, part personal essay, this experimental film combines archive imagery with the striking wintry landscapes of Alaska to tell the story of immigrant experience coming into the UK from 1960 onwards.

Director: John Akomfrah
Comedy | Drama | Fantasy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  

Upon finding a book that relates his grandfather's story, an officer ventures through Spain meeting a wide array of characters, most of whom have a story of their own to tell.

Director: Wojciech Has
Stars: Zbigniew Cybulski, Iga Cembrzynska, Elzbieta Czyzewska
The Comb (1991)
Short | Animation
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

A porcelain doll and a sleeping woman. How will they interact through her dreams?

Directors: Stephen Quay, Timothy Quay
Stars: Joy Constaninides, Witold Schejbal
Animation | Short
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  

An enigmatic story told in seven chapters, each introduced by an elliptical sentence on a title card. A man is in an apartment. He goes outside where a red tram runs beside a cathedral. He ... See full summary »

Directors: Stephen Quay, Timothy Quay
Duelle (1976)
Drama | Fantasy | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

The Queen of the Night battles the Queen of the Sun over a magical diamond that will allow the winner to remain on Earth, specifically in modern day Paris.

Director: Jacques Rivette
Stars: Juliet Berto, Bulle Ogier, Jean Babilée
Edit

Cast

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
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:

Drama

Certificate:

See all certifications »
Edit

Details

Country:

UK | Japan | Germany

Language:

Afrikaans | Spanish | English | German

Release Date:

23 August 1996 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

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

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See full technical specs »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

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 »

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 AdFinSee 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.


17 of 23 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 24 user reviews »

Contribute to This Page



Recently Viewed