Werckmeister Harmonies review

The setting is an unnamed Hungarian town, filled with a sense of crisis. Disgruntled crowds gather in the central square to witness a circus, whose attractions include a giant stuffed whale and a public appearance from the mysterious `Prince'. Witnessing these ominous events is a gullible postman (Lars Rudolph), recruited by his aunt (Hanna Schygulla) to run errands for a shadowy political organisation...

An apocalyptic fable from Hungarian auteur Béla Tarr, Werckmeister Harmonies is shot in dream-like monochrome and graceful takes, the patient assembling of images requiring an equal patience on behalf of the viewer. And don't expect to be spoonfed meanings, either. To some, it's an allegory of political demagoguery in Eastern Europe; to others, it's a commentary on our need for belief systems.

But whatever your response, there's no doubting the technical brilliance of one extended sequence, as a mob rampages through a hospital before being halted by an unexpected vision. Astonishing.

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