It’s Béla Tarr season this year, as not only is the Hungarian filmmaking making a rare appearance in the United States for a Los Angeles American Cinematheque retrospective of his work, but Janus Films is also re-releasing his 2000 masterpiece “Werckmeister Harmonies.”
Per distributor Janus Films, one of the major achievements of 21st-century cinema, 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.
“Werckmeister Harmonies” opens Friday, May 26 at Film at Lincoln Center with other venues to follow. Meanwhile, the Cinematheque programming in the U.S. features screenings of “The Man from London,” “Damnation,” “Family Nest,” “The Outsider,” all gloriously bleak seven hours of “Sátántangó,” and his most recent feature, 2011’s “The Turin Horse.”
IndieWire spoke with the director, who famously plumbs the nadirs of human experience in all his films, in 2019. When asked why his movies continue to resonate outside of Europe, he said, “I’m not prophetic. I was just an ugly, poor filmmaker. I still am. I don’t have power. I don’t have anything — just a fucking camera.”
“Hi LA! It will be nice to see you again, after a very long time. I am curious how you are now and what is going on in the town! I hope we will have a good meeting and we will spend a good time together. See you there!” the filmmaker said in a statement to IndieWire regarding his upcoming visit to Los Angeles.
Below, IndieWire shares the exclusive trailer for the 4K Janus Films restoration of “Werckmeister Harmonies.”