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Institute Benjamenta [VHS] (1996)

Mark Rylance , Alice Krige , Stephen Quay , Timothy Quay  |  NR |  VHS Tape
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Mark Rylance, Alice Krige, Gottfried John, Daniel Smith, Joseph Alessi
  • Directors: Stephen Quay, Timothy Quay
  • Writers: Stephen Quay, Timothy Quay, Alan Passes, Robert Walser
  • Producers: Janine Marmot, Karl Baumgartner, Katsue Tomiyama, Keith Griffiths
  • Format: Black & White, NTSC
  • Language: English, German
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Number of tapes: 1
  • Studio: Kino Video
  • VHS Release Date: June 27, 2000
  • Run Time: 104 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 6305537410
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #621,725 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Editorial Reviews

A dejected, hopeless soul, Jakob (Mark Rylance, Angels and Insects) walks through the door of a dilapidated mansion and into a shadowy world pitched somewhere between the 19th century and the imagination. It's a school for servants, where Jakob is prepared to sacrifice his individuality for a life of servitude and subservience. "There's but one lesson repeated endlessly," he observes. "None of us will amount to much. Later in life we will be something small and subordinate." Jakob throws himself into his repetitive, meaningless exercises, learning the fine art of humiliation at the hands of his lovely but haunted teacher, Lisa Benjamenta (Alice Krige), who runs the slowly collapsing school with her demanding, lonely brother, Johann (Fassbinder regular Gottfried John). The live-action feature debut of surrealist animators the Brothers Quay, Institute Benjamenta is a dreamy, self-contained world rich in physical detail (obscure signs, the bric-a-brac and detritus of yesteryear), which cinematographer Nic Knowland captures with a foggy, gauzy black-and-white softness, like a turn-of-the-century film. Full of fantasies and dream sequences and laced with brief snippets of animation, it's a film of strange and wondrous imagery, but an elusive story that loses itself in long, meditative sequences of monotonous action and droning narration. Many will find the deliberate pacing slow going, but this deliriously strange and fragile world lost in its own timelessness offers a mesmerizing dream alternative to traditional narrative cinema. --Sean Axmaker

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Format:VHS Tape
Okay, so this film has almost no narrative and the characters are as flat as cardboard. I knew that going in and I still enjoyed it. Why? Well, some movies you just can't watch as narrative experiences, they exist by a different set of rules. As I was watching I realised that the most interesting thing was the movement of the actors. There was a lot of choreography involved, so much so, that I came to realise it was more of an elaborate peformance piece than a film (think Pina Bausch). There isn't much to interpret, but then, there usually isn't in a dance, you just enjoy the motion. Also noteworthy is the lighting and the use of moving spotlights to animate the setting. The characters are awash in light of various qualities, some spectral, some soft. The set decoration and production design are also wonderful, always something to look at in every frame. The camera movements are odd and quixotic, just like in any Quay Brothers film. The performances, especially those of Gottfried John and Alice Krige, are nicely articulated, given that they contain only the merest whiffs of character development. All in all, this is a lovely piece of visual poetry. Watch it in bed and let it waft past you.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hauntingly Beautiful September 18, 1999
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
If you appreciate the Quay Brothers and have a facination for David Lynch you will love this video. Filled with poetic imagery, and filmed in beautiful black and white, Institute Benjamenta tells a short story of life within the bleak walls of a school for servants. As surreal as they come with a touch of Eraserhead. I found it hauntingly beautiful.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Visually pleasing January 18, 2002
By Mary
Format:VHS Tape
I found the Bros. Quay by accident at the video store. After seeing their short films, I wanted more. Institute Benjamenta was visually amazing and the musical score along with it haunting. It is hard to compare with their collection. Definitely a must-see but I did start to lose interest towards the end. Maybe this type of cinema is better in short films. Their next project should be a collection of short films with real actors. I hope that they continue to produce!
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