Unforgettable Scenes #5: In the hospital…

For this week’s Unforgettable Scene, I’m going to do something I probably shouldn’t, and make it a scene from a movie that’s already been featured once before in this format. The last time I used a scene from Werckmeister Harmonies as an Unforgettable Scene was nearly two months ago, and that scene was the opening scene of the movie.

Now, this week, I’m featuring a different scene from the same film (there are about five scenes altogether that would easily earn a spot in this feature, but I’ll stick to two). This is – apart from the opening scene – the scene that most people remember when they think of Werckmeister Harmonies. It is certainly burned into my memory, for multiple reasons, and for scenes like this, Werckmeister Harmonies is the film I would like to watch on my deathbed, hours before I die, if I am ever given such a choice.

The scene in question for today’s post is one that is mentioned often by fans of the film, though it never really struck me that deep until about my third viewing. Then two days ago, I was lying in bed listening to Öreg, a piece of music by Mihaly Vig that is used in this scene. Suddenly, for a reason I simply cannot explain, I felt a sharp brick-ton of incredible emotion hit me square and flat, piercing my whole body. I broke down. I didn’t scream or cry, but in my own way, I went emotionally hysterical. I can no longer listen to this piece of music or watch the two scenes in the film it’s featured in without feeling this incredible emotion, and it’s the mark of an intensely powerful movie – of course, my favourite film of all time.

The scene that is this week’s study is the famous ‘hospital’ scene. Let me set it up for you: a group of hundreds of angry mob villagers (who go against the cliché by being angry but completely, deathly silent), spurred on by the words of The Prince, an unseen figure who represents Satan, to commit heinous, horrific acts of violence. In silence they march through the village, and in one remarkable tracking shot lasting almost exactly eight minutes, they enter the hospital and tear it apart. They break things, throw things, storm through the rooms moodily, and attack innocent sick people, beating them silently. Then, two men see a closed shower curtain and pull it open. Cue the piece of music known as Öreg, as the two men stop dead in their tracks. They are face to face with an old, naked, defenceless man who stares at them lifelessly. Instead of attacking him like the other hospital patients, they simply walk away, ceasing their violence and leaving the building.

To put it simply: this scene either affects you or it does not. Odds are it will not have you breaking down like I was (though there are many other equally moving scenes in the film), but hopefully it will touch you emotionally in at least a similar way, for reasons which are at best unexplainable. Werckmeister Harmonies is a film I don’t care to try and explain, but I relish in simply watching whenever I can.

Here is the scene on YouTube:

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Posted on May 8, 2012, in Movies, Unforgettable Scenes and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Yes. This is the sort of thing that kind of justifies the long take. It *could* be done with conventional editing, but it would be an entirely different scene. Done in this manner, it goes on and doesn’t stop, so the violence doesn’t stop, and it plays out in real time and keeps on going… whereas, using conventional editing, the scene would be broken down and probably last half as long. Nowhere near the same effect.

    • Yeah, Bela Tarr uses the long take beautifully in all his later films. Did you know that Werckmeister Harmonies is 140 minutes and contains only 39 shots, the longest of which is ten minutes? And Tarr’s most recent film, The Turin Horse, is longer at 150 minutes and contains only 30 shots?

  2. Christian Hallbeck

    That picture of the old man is very beautiful, Tyler! Wonderfully lit! Like an untouchable, holy icon…

    I think you would appreciate the films of Theo Angelopoulos: “Ullyses’ Gaze” (a must see), “Eternity and a Day”, “The Weeping Meadow”, etc. There’s another director known for his long takes! Have you seen anything by him?

    • It is.

      I haven’t seen any Angelopoulos movies, though I found The Travelling Players on YouTube and was about to watch it when it was taken down 😦 I’ll keep an eye out for those others.

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