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Institute Benjamenta, or This Dream People Call Human Life

2 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Presented in a gorgeous new director-approved transfer, The Quay Brothers Institute Benjamenta combines the fantastic and the mystical in a shadowy reverie as uniquely astonishing as any of their celebrated animations. The titular institute is a dilapidated, moribund boarding school for the training of servants, whose curriculum consists of the endless repetition of a single lesson. Jakob (Tony® Award-winner Mark Rylance) enrolls at the Institute, and becomes gradually embroiled in the world of the enigmatic siblings who run the school: the sadistic Johannes Benjamenta (Fassbinder regular Gottfried John) and his sorrowful sister Lisa (Star Trek s Borg Queen, Alice Krige). Inspired by the writings of Swiss author Robert Walser, the Quays first feature film is a striking, exquisitely realized anti-fairytale that illuminates a fragile world shimmering with strange beauty and hypnotic power.

DVD Special Features Include:

New restored HD master, director supervised and enhanced for widescreen viewing

Eurydice, She So Beloved, a 2007 Quay Brothers short film

Behind-the-scenes footage

Original theatrical trailer

English subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired (SDH)

Exclusive digipak packaging, and an extensive booklet

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Mark Rylance, Alice Krige, Gottfried John
  • Directors: Stephan Quay, Timothy Quay
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Zeitgeist Films
  • DVD Release Date: July 24, 2012
  • Run Time: 105 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B007VQG1MM
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #91,439 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By hia on August 19, 2012
Verified Purchase
I'm a long-time fan of the Brothers Quay animations, but this is the first live-action film of theirs I've seen. Did I understand it? No. Does that matter? No. What does matter is the atmosphere, the mood that characterizes the film. The cinematography is spectacular. The lighting of this black-and-white film is in the class of the greatest Weimar silents, which Benjamenta, with its limited dialogue, eerily resembles. The acting is brilliant. Mark Rylance as Jakob is particularly impressive. If you like the avant-garde, the esoteric, films where atmosphere is more important than plot, then Benjamenta should not be missed.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Steven Adam Renkovish on February 5, 2015
I discovered the Quay Brothers when I caught a short film of theirs on the imported Blu-ray of Jan Svankmajer’s Alice. I’ve always been intrigued by stop-motion animation, however, I’d never seen anything quite like this before. It was totally unique. I knew that I had to seek out the rest of their work. Just recently, I discovered their first live-action feature film, Institute Benjamenta, or This Dream People Call Human Life.

At its most basic level, Institute Benjamenta tells the story of a young man named Jakob von Gunten, who arrives at an institute where he will learn to be a servant – nothing more, nothing less. Jakob tells us through the use of voiceover narration that he doesn’t expect much out of life.

Upon his arrival, he is thoroughly inspected by the master of the house, Herr Benjamenta – a cold and distant man, who almost immediately senses something peculiar about Jakob. Perhaps this is because he feels that Jakob is going to change things, to shake things up, to challenge the system.

Jakob attends class on his very first day, where he meets his many classmates, as well as his teacher, Lisa Benjamenta, who is the sister of Herr Benjamenta. She is a strict disciplinarian who teaches her students to repeat meaningless rituals throughout the day, and also teaches “lessons” that encourage them to deny their humanity and freedom and to embrace subservience. At the beginning, Jakob seems willing to go along with this new way of life, until he begins to question the meaning of it all. He starts to ridicule many of his fellow students, and even demands separate living quarters. Lisa moves him upstairs to a dimly lit room. At this moment in the film, it is safe to assume that the two develop an infatuation with one another.
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