Satantango

Satantango ★★★★★

Satantango is a film that I can comfortably say I wasn't sure I'd ever actually watch. It's one that has been on my watchlist for around 2 years but until about a month ago I didn't actually have a way to watch the film. On top of that, to say that I was intimidated by the runtime would be an understatement.

The average film has about 1,200 shots with an average length of 5.5 seconds. Satantango, however, contains a mere 172 shots which average out to a whopping 152 seconds each. This decision by Tarr had a disorienting effect on me. Even just an hour into the film, I had no idea how long the film had been going. So few cuts had occurred that I couldn't tell if it had only been 15 minutes since the film had begun or if it had been much longer. This confusion, combined with the beautiful photography and the intrigue of the actual narrative meant that the seven-hour runtime flew by for most of the film.

In regards to the photography of the film, I don't have a ton to say other than that it is absolutely gorgeous. The black and white contrast and sharpness that the 4k restoration brought to the film makes it hard to actually look away from the screen, and the composition of each frame feels so intentional and thought out. I've said this about a number of films, but you could frame just about any of the shots in the film and hang it on your wall. Complimenting the actual photography of the film, the camerawork is hypnotic. The slow pans, zooms, and still shots are executed in such a way that they draw the viewer into a trance-like state.

It would be hard for me to give this film anything below five stars. Even though I wouldn't classify this film as "entertaining" in the traditional sense, it is undeniably a masterpiece. Satantango isn't meant to be a thrilling "edge of your seat" film, but rather a slow meditation on life and in that it succeeds abundantly.

This is my first of Tarr's films, and it has definitely encouraged me to check out more of his work. In trying to think of what Satantango reminded me of, the closest comparison I can come up with (which still is not a very close comparison at all) is to Andrei Tarkovsky. Tarr and Tarkovsky are two directors who's worldview could not be more dissimilar and their films are completely different, both thematically and in their execution. Despite these differences, Satantango had the same effect on me that Tarkovsky's films have. Satantango is a glacially slow film, but, similar to Tarkovsky's films, puts the viewer in almost a trance-like state. Tarr sucks you into this Hungarian village for seven and a half hours and I got completely lost in it.

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