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Satan’s Tango

Director: Bela Tarr

Hungary-Germany-Switzerland|1994. English subtitles.Black and white.Dolby stereo| 445 mins.


The film that got Tarr noticed by discerning critics on the international film festival circuit, Satantango is a massive, diabolical masterpiece that runs for over seven hours. The story gradually reveals the failure and destruction of a farm collective during a few autumn days, as seen from the perspective of a variety of characters.Tarr has noted that the form of the film, like Laszlo Krasznahorkai’s source novel, is based on the tango,a factor apparent from its use of overlapping time, its twelve sections and the choreography
of its camera movement. Once again, the film ‘s formal devices dominate. Some scenes, with their elaborate camera movements and off-screen sounds,become exercises in visual and temporal perception.The long takes and the depth of field in the shots produce some extraordinary images, figures walking away from the camera into the far distance,figures walking forward in close-up for extended periods, surrounded by rain, wind and cascading debris. Scenes often last for a very long time, extending well beyond the film’s narrative requirements. Yet, as the critic Jonathan Rosenbaum has noted, ‘it’s a tribute to Tarr’s singularity of purpose that at no point does anything in his seven-hour film seem tedious or self- indulgent;the breadth of his canvas suits the magnitude of what he has to say. ‘
‘Satantango’ will be shown, as Bela Tarr intended,with two short intervals.

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