8.2/10
11,893
60 user 59 critic

Werckmeister Harmonies (2000)

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

Directors:

Béla Tarr, Ágnes Hranitzky (co-director)

Writers:

László Krasznahorkai (novel), László Krasznahorkai (screenplay) | 4 more credits »
6 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast

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

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

Genres:

Drama | Mystery

Certificate:

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Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?

Trivia

The title references the German musician Andreas Werckmeister (1645-1706). See more »

Goofs

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

Quotes

János Valuska: You are the sun. The sun doesn't move, this is what it does. You are the Earth. The Earth is here for a start, and then the Earth moves around the sun. And now, we'll have an explanation that simple folks like us can also understand, about immortality. All I ask is that you step with me into the boundlessness, where constancy, quietude and peace, infinite emptiness reign. And just imagine, in this infinite sonorous silence, everywhere is an impenetrable darkness. Here, we only experience ...
[...]
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Soundtracks

Radetzky March
by Johann Strauss Sr.
(played during the scene where Tünde Eszter (Hanna Schygulla) is dancing with the Chief Constable (Péter Dobai).
See more »

User Reviews

A nightmarish vision of a town going mad
19 May 2003 | by howard.schumannSee all my reviews

It is closing time in a bar somewhere in Eastern Europe. Someone says, "Show us, Janos". A blank faced young man, Janos Valuska (Lars Rudolph), begins to organize a ballet of inebriated patrons playing the Sun and the Moon turning in their orbits. Valuska pleads, "All I ask is that you step with me into the bottomlessness." As the dance continues, the men are spun. They stop suddenly as the orchestrater tells us that "in this awful, incomprehensible dusk, everything that lives is still…" Then, with a push, the dancers carry on until the Earth emerges from the Moon's shadow. The eternal conflict between darkness and light begins again.

Containing shots that last up to fifteen minutes at a time, Werckmeister Harmonies, the latest film by Bela Tarr (Satantango, Damnation), is a nightmarish vision of a society duped by political demagogues and distracted by circuses, being led into a cycle of violence and despair. Based on a novel by László Krasznahorkai, it is a powerful and disturbing film that, in its surreal depiction of growing madness in an unnamed town, is reminiscent of Roy Andersson's Songs From the Second Floor. The film takes its name from the theories of Janos' "uncle" Gyorgy Eszter (Peter Fitz), a musicologist who tells him of his obsession with the legacy of Andreas Werckmeister, a 17th century German musician who created the twelve-tone scale. Eszter believes that perfect order does injustice to the holiness of music, and says that the heavens move to their own music.

As Janos leaves the bar and walks through the cold and half-deserted streets, streets that in T.S. Eliot's phrase "follow like a tedious argument of insidious intent", an enormous van drives up the main street and comes to rest in a great empty square in the town center. A circus is in town. The exhibit contains the world's largest whale, dead and stuffed with tiny staring eyes, and The Prince, a shadowy figure that we never see. The town is full of rumors of impending violence. Janos sees the whale and watches a growing group of seemingly unemployed middle aged men gather silently around fires in the square. He seems to know everyone in the town. To further her political agenda of "town cleansing" (read ethnic cleansing), Eszter's estranged wife, Tunde (Hanna Schygulla), sends the compliant Janos on errands. He is told to put the children of the police chief to bed but, as if presaging the coming violence, they stomp on their beds to a cacophony of noise while one shouts at Janos over and over again. "It will be hard for you". "It will be hard for you." He is also asked to listen to conversations in the square and report back to her, but he only hears the Prince saying, `What they build and what they will build is illusion and lies. What they think and what they will think is ridiculous'.

When the signal is given, the men in the square come together and march towards us with growing anger in a hypnotic parade lasting five terrifying minutes. They go on a rampage, setting fires and ransacking a hospital, beating the sick in an unbroken orgy of violence. Patients huddle by their beds in silent fear. Suddenly a door is opened. Confronted by the menacing faces, an emaciated old man stands naked in a shower bathed in an amorphous light. Transfixed by what they have seen, the men abandon their task and retreat silently into the street. On the morning after, order is restored. The van is broken down and the whale is exposed as little more than an overstuffed balloon. The Sun emerges from behind the Moon to the swell of ineffably beautiful music. We have reached the end of the cycle only to begin dancing again when the next Prince calls the tune.


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Frequently Asked Questions

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Details

Country:

Hungary | Italy | Germany | France

Language:

Hungarian | Slovak

Release Date:

1 February 2001 (Hungary) See more »

Also Known As:

Werckmeister Harmonies See more »

Filming Locations:

Hungary See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

FRF10,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$4,852, 7 October 2001

Gross USA:

$25,461

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$25,461
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Stereo

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See full technical specs »

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