john’s review published on Letterboxd:
“We must never lose heart. We have to trust until our last breath. Otherwise what will become of us?”
In my head, I had always made fun of people who actually watched Satantango, and liked it. I thought that there was no chance that someone could actually enjoy a 7 and a half hour film. Wow was I wrong. I have been slightly interested in this film ever since I had heard of it, and I finally decided to watch it 2 days ago due to the fact that I finally got a criterion subscription.
It sounds cliché but it’s impossible to even begin to write about this film. This review is going to be a big jumble of thoughts so prepare yourself.
Let’s start off with my favorite aspect of Satantango: the cinematography. I know these words have been used about this film many times before but the cinematography was just perfectly bleak, dark, dull, and depressing. The mood it sets reflects the tone of the entire film. This is one of the most depressing films I’ve ever seen, yet there is not really any “sad” parts. This little town is just so depressing in the way that it looks, the constant rain, the muddy roads, the white buildings, everything is just so dull. The reason why the film might feel really slow is because Tarr wants to show how slow these peoples lives are, how boring they are, and how depressing they are. These people just look so sad all the time, and I really don’t blame them. They have the most depressing lives ever. Whenever the film got boring, I reminded myself that Tarr is putting us in the characters shoes, and the way he does it is highly effective.
You can’t talk about cinematography without talking about the walking scenes. A large portion of this film consisted of people just walking. Now you may think that sounds like torture, but Tarr makes these scenes into some of the best shots you’ll ever see. Don’t believe me? Watch this youtu.be/RP03MOABUO
That 2 minute long shot has got to be one of my favorites ever. For one, it’s obviously incredibly beautiful, a great use of light and darkness, motion, and camera movement. But it also shows the lengths that these people have to walk to get places. I know I mentioned that I love the walking shots, and one of the main reasons is because it just shows the utter torture these people go through daily. Walking for that long on wet muddy roads, all the while being whipped by wind and rain, just to reach a destination that you might be at for only a few minutes. That is why Tarr is so good at putting the viewer into the characters shoes. You as a viewer feel the length of the walk, and you can’t help but feel a little bad for the characters. God these scenes were just so mesmerizing.
Tbh my only complaints are one, I really didn’t like any of the characters at all, especially the doctor that guy was so boring literally every scene with him absolutely sucked. Bro would just sit down and muster all of the energy he had to just read a few lines of some random poem or something. But honestly it wasn’t a big deal because I don’t think Tarr wanted us to like any characters because it added to the dullness of the story and tone of the film. But my one other complaint is the REALLY drawn out shots and scenes. I understand that boring the audience in some parts was Tarr’s intention, and I agree with that, but some scenes just felt like too much. Like seriously I loved this film but who would want to watch 15 minutes straight of ugly people dancing to terrible music with no cuts. That scene and the scenes with the doctor are really the only things that apply to this complaint but yeah. This would probably be my favorite film if it weren’t for some scenes that bored me out of my mind.
But excluding those scenes, this film honestly went by wayyyy faster than I thought it would. I wouldn’t totally agree with the people saying it “flew by” because it’s a 7 hour film, obviously it’s not gonna fly by. But it definitely didn’t feel like 7 hours. The first 2 hours were PERFECTION and the last 2 hours were absolutely spectacular but the 3 in between was where it kind of dragged. It wasn’t bad, but it was very slow. But as I said before, Satantango is a film meant to bore viewers in some ways. At a lot of times I felt like I wanted this film to end, but when it actually came to an end, I didn’t want it to stop.
I’m not even close to smart enough to write an analysis on this film, so I’ll just say one more thing.
I sadly had to break it into 3 days due to summer school and other activities but I looked forward to it every day. On the third and last day, I watched Satantango as the rain pelted my window behind the tv, thunder literally shook my house, and lightning lit up my room every few minutes. All this combined made for one of the best film experiences ever. Satantango is the perfect film to watch on a rainy day. And I’m so lucky that I was able to. I would make this film my favorite but it just seems a little pretentious. It’s just impossible to compare this to any other film ever, its multitude and depth is like no other. Don’t let this film’s runtime intimidate you, everybody who loves films needs to experience this.