Werckmeister Harmonies

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 tent, 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. Ambitious 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…

Credits: TheMovieDb.

Film Cast:

  • János Valuska: Lars Rudolph
  • György Eszter: Peter Fitz
  • Tünde Eszter: Hanna Schygulla
  • Lajos Harrer: Alfréd Járai
  • Mr. Hagelmayer: Gyula Pauer
  • Man In The Broad-Cloth Coat: János Derzsi
  • Factotum: Mihály Kormos
  • Porter: Putyi Horváth
  • Aunt Piri: Éva Almássy Albert
  • Chief Constable: Péter Dobai
  • Housepainter: László feLugossy
  • Coachman: Barna Mihók
  • The Prince: Sandor Bese

Film Crew:

  • Thanks: Paulo Branco
  • Producer: Joachim von Vietinghoff
  • Costume Design: János Breckl
  • Set Decoration: Zsuzsa Mihalek
  • Additional Dialogue: Péter Dobai
  • Associate Producer: Béla Tarr
  • Writer: László Krasznahorkai
  • Co-Director: Ágnes Hranitzky
  • Music: Mihály Víg
  • Sound Re-Recording Mixer: György Kovács
  • Additional Dialogue: György Fehér
  • Director of Photography: Miklós Gurbán
  • Director of Photography: Rob Tregenza
  • Director of Photography: Gábor Medvigy
  • Costume Design: Erzsébet Rácz
  • Producer: Paul Saadoun
  • Director of Photography: Erwin Lanzensberger
  • Director of Photography: Patrick De Ranter
  • Sound Editor: Gábor ifj. Erdélyi
  • Sound Recordist: Csaba Erös
  • Set Decoration: Sándor Katona
  • Set Decoration: Béla Zsolt Tóth
  • Director of Photography: Emil Novák
  • Additional Dialogue: Gyuri Dósa Kiss
  • Producer: Franz Goëss
  • Producer: Miklós Szita
  • Associate Producer: Ralph E. Cotta
  • Sound Recordist: László Gyõrffy

Movie Reviews:

  • CRCulver: Béla Tarr’s 2000 film The Werckmeister Harmonies deals with troubling events in a small town in Hungarian’s eastern plains. After an opening scene showing simpleton postman János demonstrating to a bar full of drunks how the Earth and moon rotate around the sun with the help of three of the old geezers, he does his rounds in the early morning. Posters put up advertise the arrival of a giant whale with special guest, the Prince. This traveling circus, however, fills the townspeople not with eager anticipation but with dread. Indeed, when the Prince does appear, all hell breaks loose.

    Based on the novel The Melancholy of Resistance by László Krasznahorkai, the plot of this film is a transparent allegory for Hungary in the 1930s and 1940s: unable to keep its house in order, and falling for the demagoguery of fascism, Hungary brought on itself its long nightmare of Soviet domination. Tarr has curiously stated, however, that he is not offering us a historical allegory. By that I can only imagine that he is turning the allegory into a parable, using a reference to mid 20th-century Hungary as way of exploring more universal themes. Perhaps the central tension in the film is between a natural order, the ecstatic cooperation of free human beings, and an order dictated by a manipulative leader. I don’t want to spoil anything that happens here, but Tarr’s depiction of a mob let loose is harrowing.

    I was very moved by this film the first time I saw it, and on repeat viewings there has been much to appreciate. I feel, however, that the film is greatly weakened by Tarr’s decision to use German actors for two main roles. Lars Rudolph, who plays János, and Fassbinder mainstay Hanna Schygulla as the sinister “auntie Tünde” give physically commanding performances, but they were presumably speaking in German while acting, and Tarr has had them clumsily dubbed into Hungarian, no synchronization between their mouths and the voices.

%d bloggers like this: