Harmony Lessons Screen 4 articles

Harmony Lessons

2013

Harmony Lessons Poster
  • Rubbed me the wrong way from the very beginning: no Kazakh in the opening credits, a sheep being (unconvincingly) chased then (gratuitously) killed on-camera and skinned. Felt like ethnic tourism for the festival audience, though I guess the slaughtered sheep could link up with the main plot of high-school bullying... at least if you reduce the whole thing to 'variations on submission and power' or something equally vaporous.

  • The most striking of [Berlinale's films from the former Soviet bloc], in my view, was the 28 year-old Kazakh Emir Baigazin’s Uroki Garmonii (Harmony Lessons), a haunting tale of an adolescent boy raised by his rustic grandmother, who, when not tasked with gutting sheep on the farm (a confrontational opening shot), is routinely bullied at school.

  • As the title suggests, Harmony Lessons is less a straightforward narrative than a series of illustrative moments about the Darwinian horrors of adolescence, where the strong eat the weak and the weak must adapt -- sometimes violently -- to survive. It's a spellbinding work that manages to include extended digressions on the laws of physics, Islam and Gandhism in its perverse, profound brew.

  • ...It is entirely unique, employing a remarkably subtle use of surrealism and allegory to delve deeply into the deteriorating psyche of its protagonist. Surprisingly—and refreshingly—the result is not unremittingly bleak, and the comical flourishes, rather than clash with the somber subject matter, only serve to enrich it.

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