Not for the first time, I wish I were a trained musician.
I did take Music Appreciation in elementary school, though. And studied the saxophone for a while, and, even more briefly, the violin. I remember being astonished to discover that flats were sharps, and vice-versa, only with different names. This bothered me. Everything should have its own name, I thought. Why give the same note two names? And who would ever think up such a silly system?
This movie is 2 hours and 15 minutes long, in black-and-white, in Hungarian (with English subs, of course), and -- I just read this from a guy who claims to have counted them himself and I didn't so I can't say he's right, but I certainly believe him -- there are only 37 shots in the entire film. If you do your math, you will realize that at least some of the shots in this film must last for a very, very long time. Your math is correct. No need to show your work.
While watching this film, it occurred to me that a Hollywood remake of this thing (not bloody likely) would probably be called "Hungarian Men Walking" inasmuch as a number of those lengthy shots are of a man, or of groups of men, just walking through the town where this story takes place.
It's odd, but just the other day I recommended Dhalgren to my nephew, and while watching this movie I thought: this is a bit like Dhalgren in Hungary. Maybe "Werckmeister Harmonies" is D-sharp to Dhalgren's E-flat. If you liked Dhalgren, you might just like this strange movie. I did, more or less inexplicably, except maybe for the fact that I loved Dhalgren.
Not that they are in any way the same, of course. Except for the ways in which they are.
A young man, not really simple-minded I don't think, but certainly simple-souled, lives in a town in Hungary. He's a helpful fellow, doing all sorts of chores for people in town. He's curious, and full of optimism, but not stupidly so. He seems to understand that life is difficult, and certain things need to be done even though we wish we didn't have to do them. Still, none of that is any reason not to be friendly and helpful to people if you can be.
And then late one night a tractor slowly comes into town pulling a very large trailer -- the size of double-wide house trailer, only the trailer is made of corrugated steel. The tractor creeps its way through the darkened streets until it arrives in the market square where it stops and leaves the trailer.
The next day, our optimistic young man goes to the market square, buys a ticket, enters the trailer to see the featured exhibit: a large, dead whale.
And then things start to go wrong.
Look, I'm not going to tell you to see this film. Well, yes, I am: See this film. But only see it if you're open to a 2 hour and 15 minute movie about people walking through their town and then a whale in a trailer shows up. I'm not saying that's what this movie is about, but I think just like one of those cut-out silhouettes of kids showing how tall (high?) you have to be before you can get on a carnival ride, you have to be open to seeing the kind of movie I just described for you to eventually be glad you rented and watched this thing.
It's beautiful. I loved it. Have an open mind.