Institute Benjamenta or This Dream One Calls Human Life
1995. 104 minutes. UK. Directed by Stephen and Timothy Quay. Watchdate: 10/20/2010.
I was also surprised and delighted to realize that Herr Benjamenta was played by none other than Gottfried John, who I haven't seen in anything other than the James Bond movie of the same year. In Goldeneye, G-John takes a completely one-dimensional villain character (he's the underwritten part of a nefarious trio that includes Famke Janssen and Sean Bean) and actually made it a bit interesting to watch. As Herr Benjamenta, he actually pulls off creepy without being just creepy.
Institute Benjamenta also exemplifies a certain subgenre of movies that I quite enjoy. The subgenre generally features surreal elements and may deal with the concept of dreaming explicitly or implicitly. I don't have a name for it, but it's the type of movie that might be best enjoyed in a state halfway between being asleep and awake. The best examples I had before this were The Science of Sleep, Waking Life and Akira Kurosawa's Dreams. But Benjamenta fits nearly as well if not better. These sorts of movies should be experienced in a perpetual state of waking up when your mind is still relearning how to apprehend the world around you. If possible, your own dreams should subconsciously intermingle with the images and ideas of the movie. Often, one can remove the soundtrack altogether, or use an alternative one in order to focus on the images (obviously this is something to try after a first viewing). Anyway, I'm glad a friend recommended this movie because it led me to articulate my thoughts on this obscure subgenre that exists mainly in my own mind.
PS - Looks like I FELL BEHIND. But soon I will CATCH UP. Don't you worry, dear readers, if there are any of you still out there.