Received the AE copy a couple weeks ago, and got around to watching (most) of it on Sunday. I couldn't finish on Sunday, and had to wrap it up tonight.
Like many, I am overwhelmed by the film. Some of you talk about your viewing experience as relaxed or drugged. I had a dissimilar experience--the movie rarely lulled me. Of course, I was drawn in by many things, but I was generally aware of the passage of time and (perhaps because of the limitations of dvd's, about 2.25 hrs on each disc), and I don't recall ever being shocked at how much time had passed when a glance fell on the dvd minute counter.
On the food debate: Sunday consisted of old plum brandy brought back from Croatia. Close enough, I guess. Seemed fitting.
I enjoyed people's comparisons to Gerry
. The movie also constantly reminded my of Marienbad
(the staging/blocking of the characters, esp. during some of the freeze frame type moments); Stalker
--the beginning black and white parts (I guess just the harsh environment, simple houses, and long takes; simple enough!); and Eraserhead
(again, the clarity and grey-scale of the black and whites; also the eerie ambient drones running through both movies; Jack Nances first walk at the beginning wasn't so dissimilar from some of the strolls in this movie).
One of my favorite scenes was when the wagon/caravan was approaching the house, and you've been hearing the sound of the wagon as you travel behind these people. It shows the house, then you're in front of the people, closing in on the door, and continuing to hear the wagon sound. As you get to the door--right up against the door and in total blackness--the wagon sound continues. In fact, I think the noise actually increased--it seemed as if the doors would open and the furies of hell would be let loose. Not sure if anybody felt this scene was as sinister or foreboding as I. Also very much liked the walks of the two when the wind is at their backs--pretty scenes indeed.
But anyway, you know what's most astonishing about Satantango? At 7+ hours, I can't imagine removing a single scene. And I remain shocked that it was made 12 years ago. It certainly doesn't look like it was.
I agree, but at the same time, I'm not a smart enough film viewer to know why the scenes were exactly
the length they were. In the 10 minute walking scenes, I found that I could go either way: "That scene was really great. However, it could have been 10 seconds/minutes shorter, or 10 seconds/minutes/hours longer." This falls back into the earlier discussion of whether these parts of the movie constitute "narration" because, while they are more than style, they don't seem to be entirely whole integers that we can count as contributions to the story lines.
Edit: Enjoyed reading David Bordwell's comments, linked somewhere above. He writes, "The shots are surprisingly open-ended. They could go on forever. They don't anticipate a process of development and completion, as other directs' long takes do, and they don't climax in the sort of visual epiphanies beloved of... Tarr just charges ahead, without hinting how, when, or if, the shot will end." So, sounds like he had a similar experience, and similar ponderings about whether shot lengths are arbitrary (for if they are open-ended, choosing to close them at any particular time is necessarily arbitrary, is it not?). (end of edit)
Here's a theory why many, including myself, seemed to like the brandy man: he seems to have more routine than other characters, and his routine is slightly more complex. For instance, in the last chapter when he is filling up his brandy bottle from the wicker jug, you can pretty much number the steps that he will have to take before the film can progress to a further point. (i.e. open bottle 1, open bottle 2, hope he has a flask, good he has a funnel, put the funnel in, pour while barely breathing, wait for funnel to subside, etc.). Therefore, his scenes seemed to have a lot more predictability to me... I was better able to predict the cuts, etc., whereas the stories of other characters were a little more spontaneous (ummm...did I just call the movie spontaneous?). Anyway, I think you can understand what I mean. More routine, more predictability, fun to watch him and know his actions before his body can carry them out.
Like another viewer, I also didn't totally understand the two administrative men in the second to last chapter. I understand that they were reports on characters, and that they were signing Irimias's name to their report. To what end? Any thoughts?
Anyway, I'll have fun continuing to think about this, and revisiting it in the future. Thanks for everybody's previous comments--some good thinking, here.
Edit #2: About a week prior to viewing, I saw the film The Death of Mr. Lazarescu
(very good), and read an article in May/June 06 Film Comment
, in which Paul Arthur has an article about "body films"--films that explore the image of the body. The article claims that less and less contemporary films are making such explorations, with some notable exceptions: Cristi Puiu, Bela Tarr, etc. I enjoyed thinking about the article with Tarr's extreme closeups in Satantango
, and encourage those so inspired to seek out the article (and watch Lazarescu). (end edit #2)