Tuesday, April 19, 2016

880. Satantango

Directed by Bela Tarr

The Book states, "The subject of this brilliantly constructed narrative is nothing less than the world today, and its 431 minute running time is necessary not so much because Tarr has so much to say, but because he wants to say it right."  If you were saying something right, I don't think it would take seven hours.  Previously I wrote in my Hoop Dreams post that the filmmakers shot 250 hours of footage, but condensed into a three hour movie, presumably because they didn't want to alienate the audience.  I guess Tarr doesn't share the same concerns.

Basically, the film takes place in a tiny, run down village in Hungary.  The townsfolk learn that Irimias, a conniving man they previously believed had died, is returning.  Hours would pass when nothing would happen.  I was lulled into such a stupor that I might of missed it when the story actually did progress.  I must confess I covered the screen during the cat torture scene.  Really, the only way they could have made the experience more unpleasant is if they played a X-Ray Spex album in the background.

I want to observe the people who claim to love Satantango watch this film.  I can't imagine anyone being entirely engrossed during the excruciating, hour long sequence where we watch an old man do old man things, like falling asleep.  I will give Satantango's defenders the benefit of the doubt; I don't think they are simply being pretentious.  I think they might just being forgetting how awful the actual viewing experience is.

Anyway, a film like this has no respect for the audience's time.  Therefore, I have no respect for the film.  Sorry if my crankiness sounds unwarranted, but I just finished this a few minutes ago.  In time, I might claim to like it.

RATING: -----

Interesting Facts:

One of the takes lasts 10 minutes and 14 seconds.


  1. OhhhhhhhKaaaay.. I knew this one was coming, and rather predicted your response.
    " I will give Satantango's defenders the benefit of the doubt; I don't think they are simply being pretentious" .. errr ... Thank you. I think!
    So here we go ..I've seen at least four Bella Tar films now, at least two from choice, rather than because they were on the list.
    I will willing give you that they are .. rather obscure ..and I'm not sure what they are about..BUT. There is something in them that grabs me. I love the long 'walking with blowing rubbish' takes, I just don't find them boring at all (OK, perhaps the 'waling up the street maybe from another film).
    So what makes them OK by me? I guess it is the evocation of 'Atmosphere' .. and bleak despair. Sounds fun...Another possibly valid complaint is that, if you want a good bit of bleak despair, why 7 hours of it? Bergman can cram a good bit of bleak despair in rarely more than 90 mins..

    I've had a look .. you have just one Tar to get through .. You are spared watching a Whale slowly rot in a small town market place. If that is yours to celebrate or your loss is absolutely open to debate.

    What I cannot explain is how I can defend both Satantango and 'Priscilla' over the course of a few days.

  2. PS. Personally I prefered 'Werckmeister Harmonies'. I just checked, that has 'two men walk up rubbish strewn street'.
    BTW, I got really savaged on A.N. Other site for expressing concern about the cat.

  3. I definitely considering not having to watch a whale corpse decompose a win. Are his other movies super long? And you were savaged for that? I mean I get that the cat wasn't actually tortured, but it probably had better places to be.

  4. There was a thread about the cat mistreatment bit ..I said I doubted the cat was really tortured, but that it was obviously highly distressed to 'just' be in the string bag, and I doubted that was really necessary... And i got taken to task by some idiot who claimed that I thought it was OK to shoot, maim, kill, torture people in films, but not cats.. My reaction was that .. you know, where (even Tarantino) tortures, kills people.. they are ACTING .. and anyway, they have the choice to be in that situation - ie to take the part or not - .. the poor cat in the bag didn't. I still got the ' you stupid uncaring liberal treehuggers who care more for animals than people' tirade.
    No, Satantango is by far the longest .. but even 'Werkmeister 'is pushing 3 hours.

  5. Haha I agree with you. People are idiots.

  6. For my part I took a deep breath, hired it on DVD, watched it bit for bit for about a month. To enhance the experience I read the novel while watching it, the long shots made the reading real fast (272 pages). When it was over, I brought the DVD back and called it - a month. :) But at least it did not rob me 7,5 hours a single day.
    Fun fact: the film is screened in a small art cinema to this day. Tarr fans are treated well here.
    For the cat torturing part - Tarr is said to have become the loving owner of the cat. Still, that animal suffered.