Hungary 2001, 146 min, Dir: Béla Tarr, Ágnes Hranitzky
Hungarian with subtitles
One of the major achievements of twenty-first-century cinema thus far, Béla Tarr’s mesmeric parable of societal collapse is an enigma of transcendent visual, philosophical, and mystical resonance. In thirty-nine of his signature long takes, engraved in ghostly black and white, Tarr conjures an apocalyptic vision of dreamlike dread and fathomless beauty.
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.