IMDb Rating 8.4 10 9094

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Uploaded By: FREEMAN
September 24, 2020 at 02:53 PM



3.94 GB
Hungarian 2.0
23.976 fps
7 hr 19 min
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Movie Reviews

Reviewed by poikkeus 10 / 10

A beginner's guide to Satantango

Goaded on by curiosity, I saw SATANTANGO at the Pacific Film Archive several years ago. Critics gushed that SATANTANGO was without parallel - but two hours into the movie, I was less than impressed. Very little plot. Black and gray photography. Segments that went on seemingly forever, with no clear point. Much of the audience filed out early, and I left early, too. Was the director, Bela Tarr, trying to make the film an endurance contest?

More recently, I consulted the Internet Movie Database to see what was written about SATANTANGO. The cumulative rating of 8.5 of 10 was impressive, as were the write-ups. "A stunning experience," says one viewer. "Biggest cinematic experience in history," says another. The kudos go on and on. But if you scroll down the database, you'll also find the negative reviews. "Self- indulgent, annoying," one writer says. One of the more measured responses is, "I do not regret that I saw this movie, but I certainly to not think it was a day well-spent" - after giving the film a 1 of 10 rating.

So, I decided to see the film again - this time on DVD - to determine if my initial dismissal at the PFA was warranted. And I learned how to appreciate a different kind of movie - and even come to enjoy it. My hints to a naive viewer:

  • Calibrate your attention span. The individual takes of SATANTANGO are unusually long; the first scene, set outside a pen for steers and chickens, lasts over eight minutes, with no cuts. Just a single tracking shot. This happens through the entire film; in fact, the long takes and slow tracking shots give the film its rhythm and style. If you go into SATANTANGO expecting a film paced to contemporary standards, you'll be disappointed. If you can, take a few breaks between segments - and ask questions.

  • Learn about recent European history. It's possible to enjoy SATANTANGO on its own merits, but understanding recent history helps greatly. The film dramatizes the economic depression that gripped the break-up of the Soviet blok, and things gone very bad, indeed. There's crumbling infrastructure everywhere. People struggle to get by, just barely, by depending on agricultural collectives (like the one depicted in SATANTANGO). This gray, depressing worldview would eventually engulf the region.

  • Structure, structure, structure. The key to appreciating SATANTANGO lies in understanding the film's structure. Another reviewer here aptly mentioned Akira Kurosawa's RASHOMON, wherein the film's narrative is defined by a single event - told in entirely different ways by the main characters. SATANTANGO uses a similar technique; several characters experience the same segment of time from different points of view. The eight-minute "preface" introduces us to the collective itself - where the barebones infrastructure is shown. From here, each segment of the film is separated by an inter-title; when a new segment starts, we see the same action - from a new character's POV. But nearly every segment involves leaving this wet, cold, impoverished piece of hell - or try to exploit it.

  • Dance "the Satantango." The musical segments can open the way to appreciating and even enjoying SATANTANGO. Music is important for Tarr, and the repeating figures of dance are a metaphor. The tango is a repeating dance that abides by the rule, "one step forward, two steps back." It's reflected in the lives of the characters, who take one step forward in their lives, but always end up two steps back. The "chapters" of the film don't move forward like a typical narrative work; it repeats the same segment of time, over and over again. If you're frustrated by the fact that the movie seems static - that's the point. SATANTANGO is a story that can't move forward; it repeats the same familiar song, over and over - until a development determines a new course of action for the characters.

I didn't enjoy SATANTANGO when I saw it the first time, but I've since become a fan. The investment of time may seem extreme to some, but it's more than worthwhile.

Reviewed by MacAindrais 10 / 10

Plodding and Plodding and Plodding along

Satantango (1994) ****

Satantango, Bela Tarr's 1994 7.5 hour masterpiece is incredible first and foremost in that despite its length and multiple shots of literally nothing taking place it is never, I repeat, never boring. This is one of the most incredible films I have ever seen. Complied of only 150 shots, many of which last for over 10 minutes, Tarr and his cinematographer manage to create a hypnotic and beautiful depiction of a desolated communal farm in post-communism Hungary. The scenery is at once withered and ugly, yet compellingly beautiful. The land is muddy and the buildings are in shambles. There are two scenes where main characters walk with the camera following as multitudes of trash blow along with them in the wind, creating a somehow hypnotic effect.

The film opens with literally a 10 minute shot following a herd of cows wandering through a seemingly rundown farm town. The camera makes what has to be one of the most incredible pans in cinematic history panning to the left for most of the ten minute scene. Who else but Bela Tarr would try such a thing; and who else but Bela Tarr could make it work so well.

The film follows the people of the farm in essentially three sections. The first section begins by showing Futaki having an affair with Schmidt's wife. Schmidt we find out is planning to run away with the money the town has made over the past year but comes home and is confronted by Futaki who has suck out only to come right back and knock on the door. They hear that the smooth talking Irimias and his sidekick Patrina, who have been believed dead by the town, are on their way back to town. The other residents, who all plan to take their money and leave town, seem to be under the thumb of Irimias and after hearing of his return meet at the local pub and discuss what to do and wait nervously for Irimias's arrival.

The scenes are broken down into 12 steps, such as in a Tango. Nearly all of which are connected in that we see what has already happened from another perspective. The first section as noted involves Schmidt and Futaki; the second and one of the most hypnotic in the film is of an overweight and frail doctor who sits in front of his window documenting the actions of the townspeople. He details how Futaki is slipping out of Schmidt's house, and then goes back in, a scene which we've already seen except this time it's from the window of the doctor's house. The doctor hulks around and then realizes he must leave his home to get more alcohol. Scenes go on like this weaving in out and out the story line from different points of view. The first third of the film deals with the realization of Irimias' return, and exposes the corruption of the citizen's capitalism by their greed. The second third is the post powerful. It documents a little girl who is conned by her brother and ignored by her mother. The only thing she has power over is her cat, and in order to feel that superiority she tortures and poisons the cat. I will not reveal how, but this section turns to tragedy which will be exploited by the smooth talking Irimias.

The final third deals with the corruption of Irimias's communist plan for the farm. He convinces them to give him the power and all the money that has been saved up only to con them. This section is brooding with satire, as is the first in some ways, and has shades of Orwell's animal farm – the dumb and obedient townspeople conned into subjugation by the charming Irimias.

Essentially, Satantango is a 2 hour movie shown without its cuts bringing it to 7.5 hours. The film never uses its drawn out scenes to further the narrative, but neither does it use them for simply aesthetic purposes either. The film's length and incredibly long shots seem to be rubbing the atmosphere right in our nose. Many shots have the camera move, raising and weaving and circling defining space like no other film. Some of the extended scenes are incredibly funny in bizarre ways, such as an extended dance seen (from which the film gets its title) where the villagers get drunk waiting for Irimias and Patrina, dancing to accordion music while the little girl peers in through the window; and another scene that circles the room while two officers dictate and type out Irimias's statement, cleverly changing vulgar statements (which I found hilarious) and in the middle of it all, sitting down and having a snack in real time! These scenes sound perhaps boring, but somehow Tarr makes them seem riveting and when they end it's almost sad to see it. Another incredible extended sequence sees the camera facing down at the sleeping villagers circling them ever so slowing as a narrator describes their dreams.

Satantango is a film like no other. Its scope is breathtaking and its style is beautifully crafted. Tarr's films are almost like ballets: the camera moves always gracefully and in ways that we would only imagine that a cut was necessary, never faltering and always creating incredibly beautiful dances, and they set a mood perhaps better than anyone else. Satantango is Tarr's masterwork, epic in every sense of the word. If you get the chance to see this one, do yourself a favor and experience all 7 and a half hours of its majestic and drab atmosphere. Satantango is film for the sake of film and art for the sake of art.


Reviewed by zvelf 10 / 10

A masterpiece for this decade

I was mesmerized by this 7-hour long 1994 Hungarian film called "Satantango." Filmed entirely in black and white, director Bela Tarr has created some of the most stunning images I've seen on film. The opening shot, about 10 minutes long, is an enormous tracking shot following a herd of cows wandering through an otherwise desolate village. Then there's this 10-minute take of a window at dawn. Everything but the window is dark, then ever so slowly morning light brings the objects in the room into view, a character finally enters, peers out the window, then goes back to bed. There's a 5-minute tracking shot of two characters hurrying down the street in a horrendous wind while a veritable tornado of garbage and litter whirls about them. There's a stark, almost surreal woods strewn with fog. No take is less than a minute long, and there are about a dozen around 10 minutes. The average edited shot in a Hollywood film is less than 10 seconds. It's almost mind-boggling the logistical and practical difficulties of sustaining such long takes. In a great many, Tarr utilizes extensive camera movement. The camera tracks and weaves and gives you a sense of space found in few other films -- maybe those of a Welles, Ophuls, or Kubrick. The dance in the middle of the film from which the film takes its title is shown in one 10-minute take. It cuts away to a little girl watching the dance for a few minutes, then cuts back to the dance for another 10-minute take. And nothing about this sequence is boring. The eight actors in the scene carry on heartily. Another inspired shot has the camera revolving around seven sleeping characters while a narrator describes the dreams of each.

The story concerns a group of poor villagers who gets conned by a smart talker who was once one of their own into giving up all their money to go live on a non-existent communal farm. The first 4-1/2 hours is made up of 5 "stories" from the perspective of different characters over the course of the same day. Some of the events in each story overlap, so you see them occur again and again, but each time from a different perspective since they occur in the context of a different character's life. It is not unlike what Tarantino does with a segment in "Jackie Brown," but whereas Tarantino's technique is tiresome because it is plot-related, Tarr's is a grand achievement in tone.

The first story shows us Futaki, who while having an affair with Mrs. Schmid, finds out that her husband is planning to make off with the money that eight villagers have come into through one of conman Irimias's schemes. Then they both discover Irimias, who was thought to be dead, has returned to their village. The second story follows Irimias and his trying to evade trouble with the law. The third shows us a doctor who observes the other villagers and who writes down everything he experiences in journals that he keeps. The fourth has a young girl taking out her miseries in life on a cat and contemplates suicide. The fifth shows all the pertinent villagers gather together at a bar and drinking and dancing until they are all in a drunken stupor.

Satantango is one of the grand achievements in cinema of this decade.

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