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A view on Blu-ray by Brian Montgomery


Institute Benjamenta (Dual Format Edition) [Blu-ray]

(aka "Institute Benjamenta, or This Dream That One Calls Human Life")


(The Quay Brothers, 1995)




Review by Brian Montgomery



Theatrical: Koninck

Blu-ray: BFI



Region: FREE! (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:44:54.999

Disc Size: 44,601,378,098 bytes

Feature Size: 28,229,769,216 bytes

Video Bitrate: 31.99 Mbps

Chapters: 12

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: May 17th, 2010



Aspect ratio: 1.66:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video




DTS-HD Master Audio English (German + Afrikaans) 2065 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2065 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit / DN -4dB)



English, none



• 'Inside the Institute: An In-Between World': journey into the film's creation with the Quays, Mark Rylance and Alice Krige (30:59)

• On the set of Institute Benjamenta (2000, 16 mins, DVD only)

• Institute Benjamenta trailer

• Eurydice She, So Beloved (11:05)

• Songs for Dead Children (24:02)

• The Comb (18:05)

• Fully illustrated booklet of newly-commissioned contributions



The Film:

The Institute Benjamenta, the imaginary academy that is the setting of the Quay Brothers' first live-action feature film, is a decrepit training ground for butlers situated deep in a misty forest somewhere in central Europe. It is here that Jakob von Gunten (Mark Rylance), an aspiring butler, enrolls for instruction in "the divine duty of servants." Once ensconced, he joins less than a dozen other dedicated students in repeating the same absurd, monkish rituals over and over under the stern tutelage of the school's founder, Herr Benjamenta (Gottfried John), and his sister, Lisa (Alice Krige).


...."Institute Benjamenta," which was adapted from a novella by Robert Walser, is a purposely ambiguous allegory crammed with symbols -- pine cones, deer heads, severed forks, a mysterious goldfish bowl -- that can be read any number of ways. Mixing quasi-religious symbolism with a mood of gothic horror, the film could be taken as everything from a spoof of German horror movies to a mock Christian allegory.

Excerpt of review from Stephen Holden located HERE

Image:    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

The image on this disc is exactly what Quay fans had hoped for. As the accompanying booklet tells us, the print used in this release comes from a pair of 35 mm prints of the film (one fine grain, the other low contrast) and was fully restored to remove dirt, scratches, and stability issues. The image has a lovely grain structure as the screen captures can attest to, and the cinematography in each scene shows the sort of careful and meticulous attention that the Quays are known for. The image is very sharp and you'd be very hard pressed to find any fault with it. Indeed, since the final print was overseen and ultimately approved by the Quays, we can be fully confident that the image is as it was in theaters. Overall, it's a stellar job.














Audio & Music:

While the HD mono track likely won't blow anyone away, this wasn't a film that was made to test the limits of your stereo system. Instead, the audio on this disc seems perfectly acceptable for a slow and contemplative film. The music, dialogue, and sound effects are as crisp and clear as can be, and there's really nothing to complain about audio wise. The optional English subtitles do a wonderful job without blocking the image. There are, however, non-removable subtitles when the characters speak German or Afrikaan.



The disc comes with a wealth of extras. First, there's a 25 page booklet with outstanding essays by German scholar and Robert Walser expert, Samuel Frederick in which he discusses the influence of the author on the brothers, and Eastern European cinema expert, Michael Brooke on the their history. Additionally, the booklet contains a correspondence, notes on the music and biographical essays. Next, there's a short documentary on the making of the film in which the Brothers Quay appear on camera and discuss their influences, along with the film's stars. Finally, aside from the theatrical trailer, there are three short films by the duo that I believe were previously unavailable on DVD. Of these, I found "Songs for Dead Children" to be my favorite, but it's great to have them all in HD! Note, that that DVD also comes with the 2000 documentary "On the set of Institute Benjamenta", but since my screener only included the BD, I can't comment on it.



Bottom line:

While I must admit that this wasn't my favorite effort by the Quays, it's still a very intriguing work with delicate and gorgeously composed cinematography. Those interested in their animation won't find much here, but they will find a gorgeous work with an aesthetic sense that is uniquely Quay-ian. This is a film that I couldn't take my eyes off of, and the work put in by the disc's producers is laudable. Oh, and who can not enjoy a performance by the magnificent Gottfried John? I highly recommend anyone interested in the film to give it a shot. Also, be aware that this is one of the first titles that will be released by the BFI in a dual format edition. Instead of separate releases of the Blu-ray and the DVD, both are included in package here for the price that you would normally pay for just one.

Brian Montgomery
April 28th, 2010





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