Borderlands (Zev Berman, 2007): 6.5/10

The Magic Flute (Ingmar Bergman, 1975): 7/10

La Guerre Est Finie (Alain Resnais, 1966): 7/10

Speed Racer (The Wachowski Brothers, 2008): 8/10

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Location: milwaukee, wi

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Institute Benjamenta (Brothers Quay, 1995)

I had an opportunity last night to see Institute Benjamenta on the big screen at a local university's theater, and I was tremendously excited. Friends who have seen it have loved it, it's out of print on DVD, and the novel on which it was based, Jakob von Gunten by Robert Walser, is one of my favorite books of all time. Perhaps that was my downfall; I love the book so much that I expected a faithful cinematic interpretation it. Instead, the Brothers Quay took the story and mixed with other Walser texts to make a beautiful, if personally disappointing, experimental film.

The story revolves around Jakob (Mark Rylance), a new student at the Institute Benjamenta, run by siblings Lisa (Alice Krige, in a remarkable, gorgeous performance) and Herr Benjamenta. The novel has gorgeous, lyrical narration from Jakob, a lot of his fellow student and antagonist Kraus, and more of a storyline. The film, however, revolves around the love triangle between Jakob, Lisa, and Herr. The film is basically 100 minutes of gorgeous imagery, much of it involving deer. The film is so beautifully shot, with everything in fuzzy, dreamlike black and white, with characters moving in and out of focus. It reminded me of Science of Sleep in a lot of ways, not being sure what is reality and what is just in the mind.

I recommend this film for those interested in experimental film; I only did not love it because Walser's novel is so dear to my heart. The love triangle was not so pronounced in the novel, and I would have loved to had more of the fellow students and the student life that was so well-described (but still avant-garde!) in the novel. A beautiful movie, but not one that was faithful to the book. I understand the Brothers Quay did not set out to make a faithful adaptation of a novel, but I left the theater wishing that someone, someday would.


RIYL: Jan Svankmajer, experimental film

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