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4.3 out of 5 stars27
4.3 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 25 November 2006
I saw the first two-thirds of this film in the cinema (the last third went on too late for me) and its DVD release has provided the opportunity to experience the whole thing, courtesy of the admirable distributor Artificial Eye. The film is regarded by critics I admire, like Jonathan Rosenbaum and the late Susan Sontag, as one of the greatest of the modern era, and I wholeheartedly agree.

I am quite out of sympathy with Tarr's deeply pessimistic and anarchic view of the world, specifically of post-Communist Hungary (which admittedly I do not know). But I can forgive him all that, because of the mesmerisingly stunning black-and-white compositions, ultra-slow zooms and pans, eerily ominous music, and starkly beautiful lighting effects which he achieves in his extraordinar(il)y long takes.

You will either love or hate Tarr's films. Just watch the first few minutes (invariably a single take) of any of them and you will know which camp you are in. Of the 3 others available on DVD in the UK, Werckmeister Harmonies begins with a group of drunken people in a bar acting out the sun, moon, and Earth in their revolutions and orbits; Damnation with huge coal-buckets clanking along high wires like cable-cars; and The Man From London with the bow of a ship moving excruciatingly slowly. The opening shot of Satantango stretches patience to the limit; in an 8-minute prelude we watch a herd of cows slowly amble their way out of a shed and across muddy ground, behind some shabby buildings, and into a field. Each film is imbued with a sense of menace and foreboding, of some undefined apocalyptic threat.

The situation of Satantango is as follows. Two members of a farm collective are planning to run off with the money. Meanwhile rumours abound that two men who had been thought dead, Irimias and Petrina, are returning. Irimias (which means Jeremiah) is a kind of evil genius, or false prophet, who is out to swindle the entire collective out of their money. Over two late autumn days, while the rain falls incessantly (Tarr's rain makes that of Kurosawa or Tarkovsky look like a passing light shower), the drama is played out, as this pathetic group of losers is unflinchingly analysed for our scrutiny. There are 3 married couples, the Schmidts, the Halicses, and the Kraners. There is the lame Futaki, having secret assignations with the buxom and flirtatious Mrs. Schmidt. There is the schoolmaster, a teenage boy who attaches himself to Irimias, and a young girl. And there is the old doctor, who spends his time in an alcoholic haze, awaiting his shopping from Mrs. Kraner, observing his neighbours from his window and writing down their movements in exercise books. At the end of the film, when everyone else has been lured away from the collective, he boards up his windows; there is nothing more to see.

The "Satan" of the title presumably refers to Irimias, while the "tango" (six steps forward, six steps back) seems to refer to the film's 12 named sections (each ending with words from an unseen narrator), to the overlapping time structure (at least two scenes are repeated, from a different character's perspective), and to the zooms in and out. One of the repeated scenes seems unending; several drunken characters dance in a decrepit bar to an accordianist playing a repetitive Hungarian folk tune which is irritating yet strangely addictive.

If you like Tarr's style of film-making, then Satantango will certainly meet your requirements. The DVD has no extras worth speaking of, unlike the Werckmeister Harmonies/Damnation DVD which includes an extended interview with him. Just one warning: if you are a cat-lover, you may wish to skip the section starting some 20 minutes into disk 2. It's all part of the hell-on-earth that is Tarr's cinematic universe.
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on 30 May 2012
I have just finished watching this film. I have had this film for months and was waiting for the right moment to start watching it. And this is important because you really have to be in the mood for watching a film that won't be easy to watch if you do not give it your all. The film is long, really long and I knew that I won't be able to watch it one go so I decided to watch it in three days (since it came in three DVDs). Why is the rush, after all? I found it really useful to watch the film in three settings and gave me time to reflect and let all the scenes I have watched sink in.

If you decide to watch this film, then you have to be patient otherwise you might give up on it. I am not saying that you have to be patient because the film will torture you or anything. On the contrary, it's a great film and different. Yes, it's different from all the films I watched before and I liked that. at least you get to watch something new and original.The cinematography is just superb.It's actually one reason why I had to finish the film. It's magical and surrealistic. You immediately feel that the camera is in the hands of a genius.

The direction the sequence of events are also beautifully composed. The cast are excellent. They acted with extraordinary naturality and spontaneity. Their faces! O the pain and suffering. You feel that every face has its own story to tell. A story that's buried somewhere in their eyes or the deep wrinkles on their faces. I will particularly remember the face of Futaki!

I have also to give credits to the soundtrack composer, Mihály Vig. This man is a master. Listening to the music was a joy. You will love the music.

Not everybody will enjoy this film because it's not every body. Actually, there is no film that's made for everybody. That's just impossible. There are people who would love it and those who would hate it. For those who are new to Tarr's filmography, I would recommend watching Werckmeister Harmonies (2000) as a start since it's a lighter and shorter film.
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on 14 April 2009
Just incredible, it touches something deep within. There are moments in this film that are incredibly painful to watch, particularly involving the young child but in the end somehow you feel closer to the pain and the beauty of what it is to be human. It is an absolute masterpiece of cinema and poetry. If a film last 7 hours and you want to watch it all again to immerse yourself in what it says and somehow feel you understand life more then it is doing something beyond words and beyond cinema.
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on 10 April 2007
A collective farm in disarray. A messianic agitator. And lots of mud & rain. Yes, it's the infamous 7 hour movie, all in Bela Tarr's trademark style: arty black & white cinematography, long slow takes, tracking shots & zooms. The style recalls Tarkovsky but the sensibility is completely different - relentlessly downbeat, squalid & cynical, a bit like Aki Kaurismaki without the jokes. So you get a doctor drinking himself to death, a cat being tortured & a suicidal little girl taking rat poison - all depicted in slow real time takes. It's uncomfortable viewing not because it's boring but because it gets almost too intense.

This is definitely film making of the highest order with stunning images & a very clever interlocking narrative structure, but I found Satantango harder going than his earlier film Damnation. That film had a more focused setting, plot & characterisation whereas Satantango is rather weighed down with enigmatic surrealism & allegorical overtones. I hesitate to recommend Satantango - various criticisms could be levelled at the film & it is certainly not for the uninitiated, but if you know Bela Tarr's work (particularly if you enjoyed Werckmeister Harmonies) or have an interest in good old European art house cinema then you should get this DVD - it's a unique film for sure.

(Nice to see some of the other Amazon reviews here are complaining that the film is too short!)
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on 30 August 2009
I think that David's title sums up my feeling about this film. It is one to watch over and over. The length of it may appear daunting, but by the end of it I felt that it was not long enough.

The plot is simple enough: group of people on a run-down collective get swindled out of their livlihood. But it is the drama and the intricacies of the lives that make this fil so watchable.

Bela Tarr creates some of the most memorble scenes, not least the long tracking shots.

The comparison with Tarkovsky is lazy thinking. Tarr is an unique film maker (as was Tarkovsky). There is nothing quite like Satantango in any field of the arts (just as there is nothing like any Tarkovsky film) and much the same can be said of his other films that and especially those on the three DVD set The Bela Tarr Collection [DVD] which is a must for any serios film buff.

This is an outstanding achievement and a testimony to the genius of Bela tarr.
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VINE VOICEon 26 December 2006
I'm not going to bore you with the details of the `story' because first of all nothing really happens and secondly it's not important. Mostly its just people looking in and out of windows, walking, or just being, yet that may be what we're doing also by sitting for 7 hours, watching other people by transcending the barrier of celluloid and sharing in their misery. They say the eyes are the windows of the soul and in these Breughelian faces we see the personality of characters shine through and understand their individual and personal agony. This is what elevates this film beyond cinema and art into something more personal like the experience of music. By the end of the film characters feel like real people that we may intimately know.

Parallels are inevitably drawn with the work other directors like Tarkovsky, most notably `Andrei Rublev' (1966) and `Stalker' (1979). Tarkovsky's films had a sense of religious hope whereas Bela Tarr's have none of that yet I felt a certain amount of elation at the end. Albert Camus said that struggling to the height may be enough to fill a man's heart. How true.

This is a film I've waited several years to see since I first saw `Werkmeister Harmonies' (2000) and `Damnation' (1988) on the Artificial Eye DVD release. Rumour circulated for a long time about this eventual release and finally we have it. It's a film more have heard about than actually seen and has always been highly revered among cineastes. Satantango is filled with some of the most remarkable cinematography I've ever seen. So was it worth the wait? Absolutely.

Bela Tarr may be the greatest living director working today.

Highly recommended viewing.
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on 9 September 2008
I once went on a search for the longest film ever released and i stumbled upon this. At 7.5hours long it fitted the bill it's also black and white and in Hungarian.

So i bought it purely because it was 7.5hrs long, b&w and Hungarian. I just wanted to see if i could, i had no idea what the film was going to be like.

Once it arrived i waited until the mood was right to sit/lay down and watch as much as i could in one sitting. I was half expecting it to be some philosophical arty bull**** of a film, however, the film just sucked me in from the moment it started.

The imagery, characters and long shots are unlike anything else i've seen on film before. In short the film is stunning, it's not complicated, difficult to follow or arty farty film art house stuff. I watch at least once year during the winter when i have a cold or cant be bothered to get out of bed.

I'm proud to have this in my collection, It's a film that Hollywood cannot touch, it can never be remade into a 1.5hr abortion starring Nicolas Cage or some other so called 'actor'.

Satantango is one film that truly deserves the hype.
The funny thing is the dvd cover isn't plastered with "masterpiece" or "stunning" or other choice picked words from reviews that you've never read. Just as the Bible isn't plastered with "great read" or "epic life changing stories" or "based on a true events" all over it's cover nor should this be.

If you've read it this far then thanks for reading.
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on 16 October 2009
He might have made something like this. In fact he is in there somewhere; one of the crazy dancers, short of sight but long of thirst.

Not one take that lasts less than 10 minutes. Seven hours of mud, rain, drink, madness, sadness. Doesn't sound like a lot of laughs but they are there. It's a film about people; all with their own story which is painstakingly unwound for us by Bela Tarr. This is pure cinema, and you well might, after seeing it, wonder why all films can't be made like this.
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VINE VOICEon 26 October 2006
"Satantango" is one of the strangest and most memorable films that I have ever seen.It lasts for seven and a half hours,it is virtually plot free and features what must be some of the longest takes ever to be seen on film. Bela Tarr creates a superbly realised, starkly beautiful, alternate world set in an isolated collective farm somewhere in the Hungarian countryside. "Satantango" is packed full of memorable, striking scenes and imagery that continue to captivate and linger with the viewer long after the film has ended.Highlights of the film for me were the opening ten minute tracking shot of a herd of cows (the pacing and absurdity of this scene sets the tone for the rest of the film) and the remarkable three-quarters of an hour spent in the home of a desperate, overweight ,alcoholic old man ,"The Doctor", where we watch him observe his neighbours, drink fruit brandy, urinate and finally leave his hovel in search of more alcohol.Of all the films I have watched , I don't think that I have ever seen anything as jaw-droppingly original and startling as that scene. Throughout "Satantango" the cinematography is exquisite ,with each shot perfectly framed and as the stark ,monochrome images roll by , the viewer gets drawn further and further into Tarr's weird and disturbing world. Other quite brilliant scenes in the film include a ten minute tracking shot of two men walking in the dark through driving rain with the wind blowing all kinds of litter and debris after them ,a long scene involving a young girl and a cat and a fifteen minute drunken dance scene in a pub to the sound of accordion music. The use of sound and music in "Satantango" is quite superb as well, sculptured a la Tarkovsky. The plot of the film is fairly straightforward; the disparate ,and desperate, group of people who live in a farming hamlet are persuaded by a messianic/ diabolical figure to part with the money they received for the sale of their farm in the hope of a better future in a new enterprise under his management. The main themes that I could detect in the film were ones of disdain for the gullible,herd-like mentality of the proletariat and peasantry and a belief that the notion of human progress is a myth."Satantango" is a celebration of the mundane, the gloomy , the strange and the incongruous; it is a stupendous work of art quite unlike anything that you have ever seen before..........................................
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on 13 February 2012
On the end I was disappointed that I did not watch this at once. Sad story and allegory of human nature and lives.Excellent camera work, cinematography, set, music, acting, costume, story. Masterfully contoled by director who can stand shoulder to shoulder to Fassbinder and Tarkovsky.
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