Sátántangó-attachment0

Sátántangó

Movie Information

In Brief: Extremely long (seven-plus hours), often highly-praised film from Hungarian filmmaker Béla Tarr about the lives in a rundown village, and the promise of something better from a man whose primary interest seems to be the money they've received from the government. Very much a matter of taste -- and the ability to sit through an exceptionally long movie.
Score:
Genre: Drama Comedy
Director: Béla Tarr
Starring: Mihály Vig, Putyi Horváth, László feLugossy, Éva Almássy Albert, János Derzsi
Rated: NR

Bela Tarr’s Sátántangó (1994) is the first film to which I just plain refuse to affix a star rating. It isn’t that I think the film is so bad that it deserves zero stars, but I think it is impossible to categorize by that method. I will say that I largely hated the movie, found sitting through it (even in three doses) a chore—sometimes a distasteful one—and think I deserve some kind of award for trudging through the damned thing. And I do mean trudge. That said, I cannot say that the film is bad in any normal sense of the word. It’s technically very accomplished, and it is clearly what it means to be. I simply don’t care for what it means to be—seven hours and 15 minutes in the company of some grotesque people in grubby settings that I’d pay big bucks to avoid in real life. There is also an extremely distasteful sequence (yes, I understand what it’s saying) lasting about 40 minutes that involves an amazingly unappealing little girl torturing and poisoning a cat (Tarr claims the animal was unharmed, but I’m skeptical), which she then wanders around with (in stiff corpse form) until she doses herself with rat poison. The film is somewhat mystifyingly considered a comedy in some quarters, although there is some comedy in scenes depicting the communist bureaucracy. Let me put it this way: The film begins with an eight-minute shot of cows wandering around a muddy farmyard. That’s it. Well, the bull attempts conjugal relations (high marks for enthusiasm, zero for accuracy) and some chickens walk by, but that’s it. When the film finally gets to the human characters (who also spend a lot of time trudging through mud), I quickly wished I was back with the cows. Béla Tarr is contemptuous of movies, and it shows. It may, however, be more to your liking than mine, but be aware it’s a considerable investment of time.

Classic World Cinema by Courtyard Gallery will present part one of Sátántangó at 8 p.m. on Friday, March 23, at Phil Mechanic Studios, 109 Roberts St., River Arts District, upstairs in the Railroad Library). Part two will screen the following week. Info: 273-3332, www.ashevillecourtyard.com

 

SHARE
About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress since December 2000. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

15 thoughts on “Sátántangó

  1. Jeremy Dylan

    seven hours and 15 minute

    Ye gods, no.

    The closest I’ve ever come to watching a seven hour movie is when I ended up watching all seven episodes of the first season of Breaking Bad in one sitting – and that included toilet, dinner and conversation breaks at least.

    I also imagine it’s a little more fun that this thing.

  2. Andy

    [b]The closest I’ve ever come to watching a seven hour movie is when I ended up watching all seven episodes of the first season of Breaking Bad in one sitting – and that included toilet, dinner and conversation breaks at least. [/b]

    Oh yeah? I watched ten episodes of the second season in a row.

    And yes, I am proud of this accomplishment.

  3. Ken Hanke

    Now, I once watched 14 or 15 feature films over a period of three days — really from 7 p.m. on Friday till 5 a.m., then from noon on Saturday till 4 a.m., and during some part of Sunday day. But they weren’t all one movie and they weren’t about smelly Hungarian peasants trudging through mud. torturing cats, or dancing to accordion music. Also I was 18 during that earlier marathon. I don’t think I could do it now. I did watch all the episodes of ROCK FOLLIES (the Americanized five part version) in one sitting, but I was also sitting up with a colicky baby.

  4. carlos

    Sorrrrry Ken!!! I send over shorter films and some with better plot lines, I PROMISE!!

    But here is a review on this film I found on IMDB
    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.

    Some people like to be punished–Carlos

  5. Ken Hanke

    Oh, Carlos, I know there are people who think this is one of The Great Films. I ain’t one of them. You wanna do something punishingly long, I’m up for Our Hitler, but enough of this East European miserablism!

  6. Ken Hanke

    In fairness and despite the enthusiasm evidenced in certain quarters for this film, I would hesitate to say that it represents a particularly large portion of the world.

  7. Xanadon't

    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

    Just so happens I revisited Jackie Brown a couple weeks ago and to my delight (though not surprise) there wasn’t a damn thing tiresome about it.

  8. Ken Hanke

    Just so happens I revisited Jackie Brown a couple weeks ago and to my delight (though not surprise) there wasn’t a damn thing tiresome about it.

    You’re not likely to get an argument, since that was something Carlos was quoting from someone on the IMDb. I’ve yet to see Jackie Brown myself

  9. Nik

    I expected you to find the film a bit anomalous, but I didn’t think that you’d be so cranky. The elements which you are most critical about (the stinky Hungarians, long takes, and the cat torture sequence) are all, to my mind, stylistic. Your squabbles about the validity of Tarr’s remarks about the cat seem a bit out of place, especially when you consider the other highly rated films on this site which feature real animal abuse (Andrei Rublev, for example). There are comedic elements in the film, but that doesn’t make the film a comedy; the cat sequence is intended to be somber. The characters are indeed repulsive, this is the

  10. Ken Hanke

    I expected you to find the film a bit anomalous, but I didn’t think that you’d be so cranky

    I’m not cranky. I simply don’t care to be subjected to 7 hours and 15 minutes of miserableness. What you call “crude manipulations” are what I think of as the vocabulary of film. It’s not that modern audiences find the film “difficult” — most audiences from any era would find it “difficult.” I don’t find the film in the least “difficult” in the sense of understanding it (I even get the 40 minute cat scene). I just find it difficult to sit through.

  11. Nik

    Fair enough. I do think, however, that audiences unfamiliar with “the language of film” would be more embracing of this work than, say, John Carter or Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax. But that’s simply because Satantango is much more primitive, requiring less of a foundation to understand it. Along with traditional cinema, I’m a fan of filmmakers like Peter Hutton and Wang Bing, which follow a completely different language, one which is so far removed from traditional cinema that I should probably cease to call them

  12. Ken Hanke

    Fair enough. I do think, however, that audiences unfamiliar with “the language of film” would be more embracing of this work than, say, John Carter or Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax.

    An interesting idea, but I can only wonder where you’re going to find the audience to test the theory. This is for very specialized tastes — especially because of the running time. And I’d say its entertainment value is…well, limited. The liveliest and funniest scenes in the film are the two that deal with the workings of a bureaucratic government, and both of those require a fair degree of worldliness to even get what’s funny about them. I am not four square against Tarr. I admired — which isn’t interchangeable with liked — Werckmeister Harmonies.

    I am more of a traditionalist than you are (and there are those who would blanche at the idea that my views are traditionalist) in that I have a basic belief that a film can be anything as long as it remember to entertain along with it. That said, anything you program is a crap shoot. It’s quite impossible to predict how well a movie will be received. I do think you’ve set the bar awfully high with this one, but I could be wrong. I don’t actually know your audience and they may love this.

  13. Xanadon't

    I’ve yet to see Jackie Brown myself

    I simply must get to a Tuesday AFS screening soon and swap Jackie Brown for Taxi Driver. I’ll shoot you an email to let you know…

  14. Ken Hanke

    I’ll shoot you an email to let you know…

    Yes, otherwise you’ll get there and Taxi Driver will still be on my desk.

Leave a Reply