One of the major achievements of 21st century cinema thus far, Béla Tarr’s mesmeric parable of societal collapse is an enigma of transcendent visual, philosophical and mystical resonance. Adapted from a novel by the celebrated writer and frequent Tarr collaborator László Krasznahorkai, WERCKMEISTER HARMONIES unfolds in an unknown era in an unnamed village, where, one day, a mysterious circus — complete with an enormous stuffed whale and a shadowy, demagogue-like figure known as the Prince — arrives and appears to awaken a kind of madness in the citizens, which builds inexorably toward violence and destruction. In 39 of his signature long takes, engraved in ghostly black and white, Tarr conjures an apocalyptic vision of dreamlike dread and fathomless beauty.
Coming six years after Tarr’s sprawling SATANTANGO, WERCKMEISTER HARMONIES boasts a remarkable script, devastating performances, rich B&W cinematography, and a stirring score by frequent collaborator/actor/composer Mihaly Vig. Presented here in a new 4K restoration, the deep contrast of the chiaroscuro images and the luminescence of the ashen ones are restored — an enhancement that serves Tarr’s signature transcendent style.
“A totally sustained immersion in the magisterially bleak, voluptuously monochromatic, undeniably beautiful universe of muddy villages and cell-like rooms… Each cut is an event." - J. Hoberman, Village Voice “Tarr’s precise yet effortless command of the long take is so transcendent as to suggest the presence of God — every stoppage point within each shot akin to a heavenly composite of the film’s collective whole, as Gabor Medvigy’s camera delicately roams and collects the light and shadow that suffocates the film’s existential terrain.” —Ed Gonzalez, Slant “'Dreamlike,’ Jim Jarmusch calls it. Nightmarish as well; doom-laded, filled with silence and sadness, with the crawly feeling that evil is penetrating its somber little town. It is filmed elegantly in black and white, the camera movements so stately they almost float through only 39 shots in a film of 145 minutes.” —Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times