3.5, Europe

Werckmeister Harmonies

2000 / Béla Tarr > While beautiful and often mesmerizing, Werckmeister Harmonies is not easy to digest on the first viewing. Its metaphysical aspects hint at quite a bit of depth but for those without background knowledge of Hungary within the context of European history, the lessons in tow may seem shallow. Tarr’s apparent preference (or obsession) for very long takes are mostly enjoyable, though there are times one has to wonder if certain scenes could have been shortened here and there for greater impact. Also rather fascinating is star Lars Rudolph having to be dubbed as he’s German and the film is in Hungarian, which is apparently a rather complex and almost insular language. This is initially jarring in the intro sequence (which is absolutely fantastic itself) but becomes less of an issue as time goes on. Supposedly, this is one of the least accessible of Tarr’s works but can still serve as an appetizer before attempting his seven and a half hour labor of love Sátántangó. Just be prepared for a second viewing.