in about 100 words or less
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
Sátántangó 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name, Sátántangó is a dark satirical portrait of cultural decay in which the vibrant traditions of peasant life have been replaced by lethargy and the search for easy money.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).