Nate D's Reviews > The Melancholy of Resistance

The Melancholy of Resistance by László Krasznahorkai
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's review
Oct 19, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: read-in-2010, hungary, favorites, warsaw-pact-bureau-of-the-arts
Recommended to Nate D by: Bela Tarr
Recommended for: stargazers and whalewatchers caught up in the whims of power-hunger

So who knew that Bela Tarr's Werckmeister Harmonies was an adaptation?

This dense, winding novel seemingly condenses much of the tumultuous experience of 20th century Hungary into a few days of carefully cryptic allegory that is stronger and more universal for its lack of easy 1:1 correspondences between its reality and the greater one. The novel was adapted for screen by Tarr with the author and its long sentences and lack of paragraph breaks are reflected in the film's long, seamless takes (of course, this could not be the sole inspiration for the style as long seamless takes are par for the course with Tarr). As such, it is a good companion to the incredible film, related but distinct in many ways. In particular, the precise significance of Andreas Werkmeister (whose retuning of the western musical scale from "natural" Pythagorean to its modern extended (artificial?) form is a core concept of modern convenience at the expense of perfection, perhaps) has been substantially turned back on itself. And as is often the case with such adaptations, the bits that have changed between the two versions also offer key insights into the decisions underlying them. So I am quite pleased to have found this (via Mike E, I should say).

All the same, the novel itself is somewhat caught between stretches of extreme elegance, ultra-dry eastern european wit at misfortunes mundane and terrible, and formal cleverness -- caught between all of these and a certain tedium generated by long, unbroken passages of introspection, some of which require considerable repetition to get their gradual perspective shifts across. The technique works pretty well in general, but it isn't always exactly gripping. Although perhaps I have been spoiled by the sense of urgency with which the film imbues certain sequences.


previous, now-somewhat-redundant notes:
1. Fitting source for a film with so many 10-minute sequence shots, this book runs in long sentences and endless paragraphs. Really the only paragraph breaks are the major section/chapter breaks, when action is interrupted or the perspective shifts. Of course, Tarr always loves extended shots, so it wasn't purely in response to this novel; the two simply suit eachother well.
2. I love all of the subjective interpolations in midsentence, with both dialogue and interior thoughts constantly intruding into the descriptions as brief quotations. This works most effectively and originally when stated opinion and actual opinion are at odds and yet are both included without differentiation.
3. The film stands on its own, even in all its ambiguities. That doesn't mean that I'm not pleased to see that material exapnded upon with more detailed context and character backgrounds. Particularly, all this early insight into Mrs. Ezster, whose role in the film is significant but brief.
4. And can we just talk for a minute about the Eastern European sense of humor? It is excellent. A feathering of the absurd, so dry as to be practically unnoticeable, even in deathly serious contexts, but still enough to prevent most works from seeming as stilted or self-important as some of their counterparts from elsewhere can risk. An example: the rioting mob that gradually runs out of steam until they are reduced to wandering a laundromat, milling about and listlessly kicking at a drier or two. The whole sequence caps one of the darker stretches of the novel, and compliments it with a hidden ridiculousness without undercutting.
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Reading Progress

October 19, 2010 – Shelved
November 18, 2010 – Started Reading
November 29, 2010 – Finished Reading
November 30, 2010 – Shelved as: hungary
January 28, 2011 – Shelved as: favorites
April 19, 2011 – Shelved as: warsaw-pact-bureau-of-the-arts
September 13, 2016 – Shelved as: read-in-2010

Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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Mike I sure didn't, but now finding this book is a priority.

Nate D Definitely. Thanks for finding this.

message 3: by Jimmy (new)

Jimmy Cool review. This has been on my radar for a bit. I loved the first scene of that movie, probably my favorite opening scene, along with Millenium Mambo.

Nate D Yeah, that sequence is amazing as is the choreography of the hospital sequence later on (how many takes could they have done of that?). And I'll now have to check out this Millennium Mambo as well.

message 5: by Jimmy (new)

Jimmy The opening scene of Millenium Mambo:

(this isn't the original, it's the italian? french? dubbed version... the original is in mandarin, but YouTube has taken it down for copyright infringement).

The rest of the movie doesn't live up to that opening though, at least in my opinion. But some people really love that movie, so you should give it a try. I like Hou's early movies more.

message 6: by knig (new) - rated it 1 star

knig After debt and Artaud, this is next....

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