ming movie reviews

in about 100 words or less

Sátántangó (1994)

Hungary/Germany/Switzerland 432m, B&W
Director: Béla Tarr; Cast: Mihály Víg, Putyi Horváth, László Lugossy, Éva Almássy Albert, János Derzsi, Irén Szajki, Alfréd Járai, Miklós Székely B., Erzsébet Gaál, Erika Bók, Peter Berling

satantango_1994Sátántangó is a hypnotic and incredibly nihilistic seven-plus hour drama about the inhabitants of a former farm collective who live in an isolated Hungarian village where even the cows seem bored. A plan to steal the villagers’ money by a group of co-workers is foiled by Irimiás, a charismatic community leader previously presumed dead, who returns with a nefarious scheme of his own. Based on László Krasznahorkai’s 1985 novel of the same name, Sátántangó is a dark satirical portrait of cultural decay in which the vibrant traditions of peasant life have been replaced by lethargy and the search for easy money. This poverty of culture is mirrored in the film’s characters, languishing in a cold wet dark land, plotting get-rich schemes, and torturing defenseless animals to prove their worth.

Tarr’s beautifully stark and sometimes horrific images are often presented in extremely long and slowly moving shots of up to ten minutes in length. While such scenes undoubtedly have artistic merit, and might even be described as contemplative, they unfortunately have the tendency to become tiresome, even for the most ardent film lover. Upon painstaking reflection, I have come to the conclusion that a movie such as this might best be enjoyed by longer-lived species such Xestospongia muta (aka the giant barrel sponge with a lifespan of over 2,300 years), or even Arctica islandica (aka the Ming Clam [no relation] known to live up to five centuries), who can spare the time required to fully digest Tarr’s Magnum opus (Klaus Ming September 2016).


2 comments on “Sátántangó (1994)

  1. SJHoneywell

    Yeah, this was pretty much my reaction to it. I can’t say I’m upset that I watched it or that it was a complete waste of my time, but it’s not one I’d want to watch again. There are some beautiful shots and there are some interesting ideas here…but did we really need seven hours of it?

    At some level, I think Tarr is messing with his audience. Actually, a British filmmaker did something rather like this specifically to protest the way films are rated in the U.K.


    • Klaus

      I’m just thankful it wasn’t longer!

      I admit that the ideas behind the film and its execution are pretty interesting. Even the length of the film can be defended and explained as central to the message – but it still doesn’t make me want to sit through 7+ hours – or say that i enjoyed it.

      This is one of those films that is more interesting to talk or write about, than to watch (an idea for a future blog post / list when I complete the 1001 next month).

      The article on the paint drying film is brilliant! – thanks for sharing (I hope it doesn’t make it into a future edition of the 1001 book).

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This entry was posted on 09/30/2016 by in 1001 List, 1990s, All and tagged .
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