Harmony Lessons

Dir.: Emir Baigazin | Kazakhstan, Germany, France 2013 | 120 min

The Kazakh 'Harmony Lessons' has been called Hitchcock in the Himalayas, and even if this is a bit gimmicky, there is something to it. Either way, it is an unexpected and powerful experience, which starts as an aesthetically beautiful world film about family life and rites in Kazakhstan's harsh nature, but slowly changes into an intense and disturbing high school revenge drama somewhere between 'The Story of the Weeping Camel' and Gus van Sant's 'Elephant'. 13-year-old Aslan lives alone with his grandmother and languishes at school, which is controlled by a hierarchy of extorting thugs. After being a victim of a practical joke, he is frozen out by his schoolmates and isolates himself even more, while he torments cockroaches and plots revenge. We will not reveal any more, for one of the strengths of 'Harmony Lessons' is the fact that it is quite unpredictable, in spite of its ultra-tight structure. It brilliantly lets a stream of spontaneous surrealism run in parallel with the clinical realism, so we don't only see Aslan's world, but also the world as he sees it through his eyes. 'Harmony Lessons' has been compared to both Bresson and Kieslowski for its simultaneously precise, raw and poetic look at life - the entirely normal, incomprehensible life. But it is also a beautiful film that exploits its exotic setting to emphasise the disturbing unknown in the recognisable emotions.

Original Title
Uroki garmonii
Title
Harmony Lessons
Country
Kazakhstan, Germany, France
Release Year
2013
Duration
120 min.
Directors
Emir Baigazin
Producer
Anna Katchko
Script
Cast
Timur Aidarbekov, Aslan Anarbayev, Mukhtar Andassov, Anelya Adilbekova, Beinitzhan Muslimov, Omar Adilov, Adlet Anarbekov, Daulet Anarbekov, Nursultan Nurbergenov, Nurdaulet Orazymbetov, Erasyl Nurzhakyp, Assan Kirkabakov, Ramazan Sultanbek, Bagla Kobenova
Camera
Aziz Zhambakiyev
Sound
Markus Krohn, Sergey Lobanov
Editor
Emir Baigazin
Production Company
CS Kazakhfilm, The Post Republic Halle, Rohfilm, Arizona Productions
Version
Dialogue: Kazakhstani, Russian English Subtitles
Tempo
6
Thrills
7
Sighs
7
Laughs
8
Look
8
Food for thought
6