Sátántangó (Béla Tarr, 1994)

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bunuelian
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#101 Post by bunuelian » Wed Nov 21, 2007 5:04 am

I've not seen this film, but after reading the comments of this thread, I can't help but feel that it has some affinity to the writings of Sam Beckett. It's very important that I see it, I know, because if I don't see it, then I won't know, and that, after all the Tarkovsky counterpoints, is unacceptable.

Although it perhaps belongs in a technical thread, I'd also pose the question: is the AE really non-anamorphic? Is its non-anamorphickness so tragically zoomed as to be consumable, or does it tease with rims of blackness for hours and hours, begging the question, "what if I were whole?" on a satisfyingly expensive tv? If the ratio is adequate, with zooming, on a television duly endowed with paychecks, then it might replace, for a moment, the theater, without asking, "what if I were whole?" politely allowing the viewer to tire his bum in expectancy. But if it suffers from smallness, in whatever form, so that it does not fulfill the bum, but leaves it immediately expecting more image, as cows cross the screen, as I am led to expect, then does this failure of completeness of cow flaunt the expectation of fullness that is required for an appreciation of the cow-image (being, as it is, an essential component of the whole)?

Seeing as the Facets release is a fart (to which I fart into the collective wind), I may reach for the AE, if only for the pretense of roses.

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MichaelB
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#102 Post by MichaelB » Wed Nov 21, 2007 6:08 am

bunuelian wrote:Although it perhaps belongs in a technical thread, I'd also pose the question: is the AE really non-anamorphic?
Yes.
Is its non-anamorphickness so tragically zoomed as to be consumable, or does it tease with rims of blackness for hours and hours, begging the question, "what if I were whole?" on a satisfyingly expensive tv?
It's a straightforward 1.66:1 picture letterboxed within a 4:3 frame.

(I must be one of the few people who actually prefer it that way, since my biggest screen is a 43" rear-projection 4:3 model!)

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bunuelian
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#103 Post by bunuelian » Wed Nov 21, 2007 12:22 pm

Thanks for the info!

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v_konigsberg
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Satantango

#104 Post by v_konigsberg » Tue Mar 18, 2008 11:15 am

This magnus opum of cinema has changed the value of that very term to me. hope to see it soon on big screen
Last edited by v_konigsberg on Tue Mar 18, 2008 7:54 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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skuhn8
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#105 Post by skuhn8 » Tue Mar 18, 2008 11:21 am

Yes, many of us have. Please use the Search capability before starting a new thread and welcome to the forum. More on Satantango.

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#106 Post by Adam » Tue Mar 18, 2008 7:10 pm

Looking forward to seeing it again on the big screen this Saturday (March 22) in Los Angeles at LACMA. 2:00 pm. If you're in LA, be there!

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swo17
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#107 Post by swo17 » Sun Jul 20, 2008 9:30 pm

Just finished watching this, and still processing it, but it struck me as the cinematic equivalent of a Stars of the Lid album (and not just because of length and the style of ambient music). Some scenes were breathtaking, others frustrating, but I admired the audacity of filming on such a large scale in the first place. For instance, if you included some of these scenes in a two or three hour movie, I think it would seriously drag, but in establishing from the onset that we are working within the constraints of a 7-hour film, Tarr seems to be working on a whole other level here--some sort of hybrid between film and real life--transforming what would otherwise be a dull patch between two traditional cinematic moments into the focal point, and forcing us to question why we would otherwise find these moments to be mundane, when through Tarr's lens, there is clearly beauty to be found here. Similar, I think, in some respects to SOTL's approach to music.

Can anyone else identify with this?

Grand Illusion
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Re: Satantango (Bela Tarr, 1994)

#108 Post by Grand Illusion » Sun Nov 30, 2008 2:28 am

Wow.

Thank you, cf.org for introducing me to this film.

Tarr's handling of the narrative is spot-on. How lovely to see a 7 1/2 hour art film that doesn't eschew narrative as something for the proles. This isn't some "I sat through the whole thing" Andy Warhol experiment. Once the film gets its talons in you, it is riveting the whole way through.

Although it adheres to a narrative, although non-linear, Satantango never loses its ambiguities. The heirarchy of characters, the allegorical failure of the collective, Irimias as both the god of the collective and the low-level snitch of the authorities, the treatment of intelligence and power, materialism and existentialism, and several other themes make this a film with many strata.

The performances are a perfect mix of naturalism and stylized moments, such as when all the characters freeze and it is as if the world is caught in a photograph. I clung to every 4-minute silence just anticipating the next syllable of dialogue. And the way Tarr blocks his characters allows the complex camera movements and variance of angles in a single take.

When the image is still, the film still breathes with amazing sound design and score. The sounds and music are terrifying and haunting.

And during the still moments, it also helps that, like Persona and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, you could take any frame of the film and put it in a photography exhibit. Major kudos to the cinematographer and production designer. Even more impressive is that 6 minutes into a tracking shot, the composition is as beautiful as it was the first frame. The opening shot being one of the most ominous in all of film.

I read through all 5 pages of the thread, and I'd even agree with the few that said they wanted even more from this. I sat down with just diet soda, no wine, not knowing what to expect, and I left the film (over my three intermittent viewings) in complete awe. A genuine masterpiece and one of the best films I've ever seen. This is cinema.

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Re: Satantango (Bela Tarr, 1994)

#109 Post by Metropolisforever_2 » Fri Jan 30, 2009 12:08 pm

After watching disc 1, I'm really not sure I want to bother with disc 2... I just don't get it... Please tell me the second half is a revelation, because I found the first one to be incredibly dull, boring, pretentious, and pointless. And I watch a lot of "art" films.

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Re: Satantango (Bela Tarr, 1994)

#110 Post by mteller » Fri Jan 30, 2009 12:31 pm

Metropolisforever_2 wrote:After watching disc 1, I'm really not sure I want to bother with disc 2... I just don't get it... Please tell me the second half is a revelation, because I found the first one to be incredibly dull, boring, pretentious, and pointless. And I watch a lot of "art" films.
Just stop now, you're not going to get it.

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Re: Satantango (Bela Tarr, 1994)

#111 Post by Barmy » Fri Jan 30, 2009 12:31 pm

I think you got it. =D> Try again if it ever plays in your area in 35mm.

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Re: Satantango (Bela Tarr, 1994)

#112 Post by sidehacker » Fri Jan 30, 2009 2:41 pm

I find Tarr quite dull and overtly-arty at times, but the opening of Satantango (I've only seen the first hour) is absolutely mesmerizing. Hallucinogenic drugs will probably help anybody's viewing. I've put off watching this on the account of having no "perfect" way to view it. I feel like I should do something special, rather than just check out the Facets discs from the library.

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Re: Satantango (Bela Tarr, 1994)

#113 Post by aox » Wed Feb 24, 2010 11:47 pm

I have some simple questions pertaining to narrative. I agree with the poster in this thread that said it was amazing that in such a slow moving 7 hour film, you could miss important parts of the narrative.


1. What was the plot/scheme? What was the motive of Irimiás? At first, I thought his plan was to confess all of the terrible deeds of the town to the Hungarian Soviet, go back to the town with a crazy scheme and round up all the paper money, lead the town to a specific place, tell them he would be back, have the authorities arrest them all, and make off with the money. But this doesn't add up at all. How is he an informant? What is he informing? How does the doctor work into this informing?

2. What was the point of the explosive? Why did Irimiás look into purchasing this?

3. Confusion with the time line: Did he lead the town to the church, they return, and then he led them to the compound/mansion? or did he split the town: one half to the church/estate and one half to the compound?

Loved this film. Saw it about three weeks ago and can't stop thinking about it. I wish it was something I could simply rewatch, but I don't know if I will any time soon. As I have gotten older, I have lost the patience for even three hour films, let alone 7 1/2 hour films. I might be tempted to see this in 35mm though. And sorry to be the sole post that really is fixated on the narrative. I join with the rest of this thread (and the other) in marveling at the all direction analysis that can be lobbed at this film. I just don't have much to add. Thanks
Last edited by aox on Fri May 21, 2010 2:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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ando
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Re: Satantango (Bela Tarr, 1994)

#114 Post by ando » Fri May 21, 2010 1:32 pm

sidehacker wrote:I feel like I should do something special, rather than just check out the Facets discs from the library.
Well that's exactly what I've done, sidehacker. I've got a 50 inch screen and a large cup of Sumatran roast. That's about as special as this viewing will get. I'm certainly not buying the film until I've discovered what the raves are all about. I'll also watch it before reading all of this thread (though the previous poster's comments about being the only one to bring up the narrative is disconcerting) - just curious to see if a Satantango thread exited here. Damnation is one of my favorite films and already (I'm only into about 30 minutes of Satantango) I see a more developed visual style from Tarr. I'm also pleased to find that this viewing dovetails nicely with my recent viewing of Straub and Huillet's Chronicles. It's only my vacation that's allowing this kind of indulgence.

Oh, I know I'm not supposed to speak on it but did anyone notice the cockroach crawl across the print in chapter 4 of the Facets DVD? Surely, Tarr did. :)

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Re: Satantango (Bela Tarr, 1994)

#115 Post by John Cope » Thu Nov 17, 2011 2:00 pm

Krasznahorkai's original text finally translated into English.

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Re: Satantango (Bela Tarr, 1994)

#116 Post by D_B » Sat Jan 07, 2012 12:25 am

This is specifically in reference to aox's post, but may refer to others too - I have been meaning to post this for a long time, but only just registered on this site, so....

1. What was the plot/scheme?

Well - this 'plot/scheme' is the entire plot of the movie - so this is essentially a synopsis to the best of my understanding (I am not seeing SPOILER blocks in this thread, so hope I'm OK not blacking all his out)....

(I am not an expert in the laws of land ownership in the Soviet era, but to the best of my knowledge....)

In the soviet era (Hungary was a 'satellite' of the USSR) private ownership of land was at best, frowned upon. In general, the government owned the land and in rural areas 'collective farms' were created in which several people were assigned by the government to farm a given piece of land. In the rosiest interpretation it was a 'utopian' idea that people would be happier this way, sharing their labors, etc. In a more harsh interpretation it was brutal authoritarianism...

In the beginning of Satangango, the USSR has fallen, Hungary has become an independent, capitalist nation, and the country is in a process of 'privatizing' the land. The farm workers have been named its owners, because when the land is sold they all receive an equal share of the profits.

As the film begins, the money from the sale of the land has just arrived and many of these former 'owners' have schemes to cheat each other out of all or part of their share of the money.

In a similar way, the little girl (Estike) is cheated out of the little money she has by her brother.

To the best of my recollection Estike's brother (possibly the city "authorities", I'm a little hazy on this point) tips off Irimias, (a former member of the collective who now is a petty criminal/conman in the city) that his former comrades are now flush with cash and ripe for the picking. Irimais and his sidekick arrive in town when Estike's funeral is taking place. While I don't think her death is what motivated him coming, he DOES use the befuddled guilt and confusion of the farmers to con them (his 'confessions' are just part of a conmans' toolbox).

For stage one of his scheme he convinces them not to go out on their own but to follow him via the dreams of a more 'pure' collective glory - in essence the old communist ideal in its original, uncorrupted form - using the a crumbling glory of a pre-communist estate to hint at a sort of aristocracy.

Once he has sold them on a 'dream' and he gets all their money, Irimais shifts gears and we move from 'communism' to 'authoritarianism' OR 'capitalism' (take your pick) where Irimais essentially cons the farmers into giving up their own free will - he becomes their 'master' - ordering them all off into separate destinies - doling them out what had been their own money in drips and drabs.

Only Futaki has the strength of character to doubt Irimais - and decides to go off on his own, with the indication that when given the opportunity, most people find it easier to be sheep than to be free.

As for the police station at the end: I can't say for SURE, but my reading of it is that even though Hungary has supposedly become a 'free' country - decades of citizens informing on each other and the bureaucracy designed to handle that has a life of its own. It would seem the police who had taken Irimais in let him go on condition that he inform on the people from the collective. (I would add, I interpret the Doctor as somebody who spent his life as a government-paid informant- although without anyone left to inform on he seems to be up a creek).

2. What was the point of the explosive?
Irimais is just up to no good in general. The film has many fable-like qualities and much of the imagery surrounding Irimais link him to the devil and/or 'antichrist'.

3. Confusion with the time line:
If memory serves, they are in church when he arrives. He then leads them to the estate, then separates them and has them all go off into their own separate destinies but under his control.

4. You didn't ask, but I think the tolling bell at the very end has to do with Hungary's status as the only WESTERN european country to ever fall under Ottoman rule (the "Turks") - something which I believe haunts many Hungarians as a source of shame. I would say Tarr is making a specific statement that Hungarians are unfortunately passive when it comes to letting others take control over their lives.

There are still things about this film I think only a Hungarian who lived through this period would 'get'. Hopefully someday somebody will write about Satantango (in English!) from that perspective.

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Re: Satantango (Bela Tarr, 1994)

#117 Post by markhax » Sat Jan 07, 2012 9:27 am

D_B wrote:This is specifically in reference to aox's post, but may refer to others too - I have been meaning to post this for a long time, but only just registered on this site, so....

1. What was the plot/scheme?

(I am not an expert in the laws of land ownership in the Soviet era, but to the best of my knowledge....)

In the soviet era (Hungary was a 'satellite' of the USSR) private ownership of land was at best, frowned upon. In general, the government owned the land and in rural areas 'collective farms' were created in which several people were assigned by the government to farm a given piece of land. In the rosiest interpretation it was a 'utopian' idea that people would be happier this way, sharing their labors, etc. In a more harsh interpretation it was brutal authoritarianism...

In the beginning of Satangango, the USSR has fallen, Hungary has become an independent, capitalist nation, and the country is in a process of 'privatizing' the land. The farm workers have been named its owners, because when the land is sold they all receive an equal share of the profits.

. . .

Once he has sold them on a 'dream' and he gets all their money, Irimais shifts gears and we move from 'communism' to 'authoritarianism' OR 'capitalism' (take your pick) where Irimais essentially cons the farmers into giving up their own free will - he becomes their 'master' - ordering them all off into separate destinies - doling them out what had been their own money in drips and drabs.

As for the police station at the end: I can't say for SURE, but my reading of it is that even though Hungary has supposedly become a 'free' country - decades of citizens informing on each other and the bureaucracy designed to handle that has a life of its own. It would seem the police who had taken Irimais in let him go on condition that he inform on the people from the collective. (I would add, I interpret the Doctor as somebody who spent his life as a government-paid informant- although without anyone left to inform on he seems to be up a creek).
Thanks for this long post. I have found that reading Krasznahorkai's novel clears up a number of issues. This was also the case with Tarr's "Werckmeister Harmonies," based on K's "Melancholy of Resistance," and it is equally true of "Satantango," based on the eponymous novel. I read the latter last fall in German translation (Krasznahorkai has said that his Hungarian translates best into German).

As for the film being set in the post-Soviet era; shot in 1994, it is post-Soviet, but the novel was published in Hungarian in 1985, i. e., when Hungary was still communist, although I believe I am correct in saying that it was the most liberalized of the Soviet-bloc countries. In the novel we read that the farm (Siedlung) has been "dissolved" (Aufgelöst). We are never told that it was a state-owned collective farm but one assumes as much. In both the novel and the film the state is present only in the form of the police. The money that Irimias and Kraner return with at the beginning of the film is the wages for the entire farm for the previous eight months. Most of the people who worked on the farm have already left. Those who remained are dead-enders and drunks.

The film follows the novel very closely, but in the scene between Irimias, Petrina and the police captain, much dialogue has been added in the film. Yet in the novel it's very clear: they have been released from prison and have not yet looked for work. The Police Captain issues a subpoena ordering them to appear and tells them: "You will work for me, is that understood?" He threatens to put them back in jail, and orders them to return two days later, but we are never told in either the novel or the film that they have actually done that. It is confirmed only in the film’s final scene, where we see two comically banal police clerks preparing a report based on the intelligence provided by Irimias and Petrina, fill with contemptuous characterizations of Irimias’s gullible victims—only then does it become clear that they are indeed working for the state. As for surveillance and entrapment, it is surely significant that three of the six chapters in the first part of the novel refer to spiders and spider webs, In the final chapter of part one we are told that the tavern is covered with fine spider webs on everything, but strangely no one has ever seen a spider! The gullible farm workers, who thought they were gaining freedom in a new collective enterprise, are still under the surveillance and manipulation of the state, but is it being done through the agency of the criminal Irimias. Futaki is the only one who comes to realize that Irimias is not to be trusted. I never figured out the explosives myself, but it is clear that despite working as an informer for the state police apparatus Irimias is free to pursue his own criminal schemes.

The whole ironic point of the novel and the film, as I see it, and why it called a tango, with the chapters ascending from I to VI in the first part, and then numbered in reverse sequence, from VI to I, in the second part, shows that while they are in another location, they are, in terms of their freedom and independence, right back where they started, minus the cash that they stupidly turned over to Irimias. In the German translation the final chapter is entitled “The Circle is Closed.”

This circular pattern extends even to the narration of the novel itself. The last two pages of the novel repeat the first two pages verbatim. They are being written by the doctor; he is the author of the story we have read. This conclusion of the "tango" was not evident to me in the film. There is nothing to indicate that the doctor is a police informer. He is "the intellectual", the "historian" in the community. Nothing in the book suggests that his meticulously kept diary, full of details, is intended for the police. He has been suspended from medical practice. His diary, we are told, is his effort to preserve his memories, it is a bulwark against a world where everything is in a state of moral and physical disintegration and decay.

Both Tarr and Krasznahorkai have made clear that their work is not just about or even primarily about Hungary. It's above all a fable about human gullibility and manipulability, our desperate need to believe in utopian visions. Irimias’s tactic is to appeal to a dream of a collective enterprise, not an individualistic capitalist one. The seductive eloquence of his brilliantly manipulative speech show him to have the makings of a masterful politician--or dictator. While reading the book I couldn't help but see parallels with the political situation in the United States (although the Republicans, thankfully, have no one with Irimias's silver tongue, but with such a gullible electorate they may not need that!). If the Republicans regain control of the Presidency and the Senate and keep the House, however, it will be Satantango indeed! Truly a novel and film for our times!

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Re: Satantango (Bela Tarr, 1994)

#118 Post by D_B » Sat Jan 07, 2012 4:03 pm

I'm glad I posted if only to be corrected on some things I mis-remembered or just misinterpreted (a little bit sad the Dr. was not an informer though - I kind of liked that idea). Maybe some day on Wikipedia some brave soul will write up a real synopsis (though its been fun for me over the years to try and piece together whats going on just by what I see on the screen).

While I think on the broadest scale Satantango is about all human nature in general, I really do think the importance of the tolling bells (heard by Futaki early in the film) being revealed to be by the 'ghost' of a (seemingly) medieval monk warning of the 'Turks" is a specific reference to something that is unique to Hungarian history (at least in a certain context - insofar as most place in the world have fallen prey to 'foreign invaders' at some point). I have to think the invasion of the Turks is also a reference to Hungary's having just been under the control of the USSR, and a kind of warning by Tarr that other foreign (capitalist?) invaders are the newest wolves at the door.

When it comes to the state apparatus of informers, I do wonder how much (if at all) Hungarians associate that with being under Soviet control or if it is accepted as something Hungarians were happy to adapt and so were ultimately responsible for.

After writing my post, I had a dim memory (I read a little about Hungarian history some years ago) about an incident where when the country was under Ottoman occupation,a bolt of lightening struck and blew up a huge collection of explosives that I think were stored by the Ottoman overlords in a castle in Buda or Pest - with the explosion killing many people.

For all I know, this is a minor incident unknown by average Hungarian, but if it IS considered to be a big deal, perhaps the involvement of Irimais with explosions is an allusion to that?

Anyway, I will have to make a note for myself to read the English translation of the novel when it comes out - I'll bet its great.

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Re: Satantango (Bela Tarr, 1994)

#119 Post by McCrutchy » Mon Jan 16, 2012 9:02 pm

Just an FYI, this is playing on February 4th and February 5th at the Film Society of Lincoln Center as part of a complete series of Tarr's works. The listing shows it will be shown in 35mm as well. I'm planning to be there and this will be my first Tarr film. :D

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Re: Satantango (Bela Tarr, 1994)

#120 Post by tavernier » Fri Mar 16, 2012 11:18 pm

John Cope wrote:Krasznahorkai's original text finally translated into English.
The novel is reviewed in the NY Times Book Review


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Re: Sátántangó (Béla Tarr, 1994)

#122 Post by FrauBlucher » Thu Jan 18, 2018 4:25 pm

That's wonderful news! Anyone familiar with Arbelos' work?

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zedz
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Re: Sátántangó (Béla Tarr, 1994)

#123 Post by zedz » Thu Jan 18, 2018 4:39 pm

They recently did a magnificent edition of Funeral Parade of Roses, stacked with Matsumoto's short films, so I'm very pleased that they're the ones that took this on.

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Re: Sátántangó (Béla Tarr, 1994)

#124 Post by mteller » Thu Jan 18, 2018 5:08 pm

Just this morning I was thinking of how much I wanted this, so I'm pretty sure I willed it into existence. You're welcome.

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Re: Satantango (Bela Tarr, 1994)

#125 Post by kekid » Thu Jan 18, 2018 5:49 pm

When was this announced? Does "early next year" mean 2019?

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