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Institute Benjamenta, or This Dream People Call Human Life

The Quay Brothers
UK, Japan, Germany 1995 / 104’

The first full-length film by the Quay brothers. The Quays had considered a project involving the adaption of Jakob von Gunten, a novel by Robert Walser, since the mid-1980s. Jakob arrives at the servants’ school kept by the siblings Johannes and Lisa Benjamenta. The education in the institute consists of constant repetition of absurd gestures and forms, which serves the pupils’ transformation into well-tuned automats. Jakob’s presence visibly affects Lisa, gradually disturbing her balance. One of the main characters of the film is the institute itself, too, which somehow “infects” anyone who enters it – an imagined space, at the edge of woods and at a downtown street at the same time. “It seems to me that all previous films by the brothers had the same features: decorations are characters, objects have personalities and tell their own stories. The brothers only let them speak, while they themselves – hidden and excited – watch the mystery they have triggered or rather discovered,” wrote Piotr Dumała of The Institute. The Quays’ were encouraged to making The Institute by live action films by such animators as Walerian Borowczyk (Goto, Island of Love - Goto, l'île d'amour, 1968) or Kon Ichikawa (An Actor's Revenge - Yukinojo henge, 1963).


Jakub Mikurda

Bracia Quay

Twins, born in 1947. They studied in Philadelphia and continued their education at the Royal College of Art in London, where in the 1970s they directed their first short films. In the 1980s, they made commercials (for Honeywell, Walkers Crisps, and Dulux Wood Protection), music videos (the most famous one - for Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer), and animations which made them popular – The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer, Street of Crocodiles. In 1995, their first feature film premiered: Institute Benjamenta, or This Dream That One Calls Human Life, winner of the Bronze Horse in Stockholm and the jury’s award at the Fantasporto festival. Another full-length live acting film by the brothers is The PianoTuner of EarthQuakes. Their art is inspired by literature, especially by prose by Bruno Schulz and lately - Stanisław Lem.