Disclaimer: I don’t really do reviews, which is probably why I’ve never written on my blog. But I suspect any thoughts commenting on the film in question could be considered a review, so I’m going to claim this as such. (Note to self don’t self-contradict in the opener)
Other-disclaimer: minor spoilers, nothing you need not know before you watch.
So I got round to watching Satantango on Sunday evening. No mean really – its a 7 hour film, so finding the time in one block to actually watch it is a worthy achievement in itself. That patting you’re hearing is my hand on my back. Many films have had people comment on the nature of the effect that they impose upon their audience, however, I doubt many of them are related to the length.
This is an important point because the thing that struck me most about Satantango wasn’t its story or characters, despite the former being interesting and the latter all well developed. The real impact comes from the aura of complete cynicism towards both mankind and the nature of politics that emanates from this film.
The bulk of the film’s plot revolves around a the political machinations of a group of villagers attempting to get away from their qualid lives. This tale is extolled in two components: the first one critiques individualism, the second collectivism. Neither comes off lightly. Nor do the villagers, who are portrayed, as in the opening scene, as a group of cattle desirous of direction and control.
Within the context of broad daylight after a sunny Tuesday – one can question these assertions that Bela Tarr puts forward. Whilst watching the film, however, one’s cognitive abilities are suppressed by his stark cinematography, dark narrative, and stress inducing runtime. Here one realises the power of the cinema – the power to manipulate one’s view of humanity.
Interesting to note at this juncture the narrative of the two films most often cited in connection Satantango. Gus Van Saint’s Jerry and Elephant – the former about two two youngsters without food in the desert and the latter about a high school murder (coincidentally topical). Perhaps its not just the extended takes and discordant background noise that are referenced.
At this point its worth admitting that I do value the aesthetic and visceral elements of cinema as much as the more intellectually stimulating. I proffer this a reason for my liking of Cronenberg’s blood baths and Woo’s vacuous, but elementally beautiful slow motion set pieces. Even on this level Satantango fails to disappoint. The extensive scenes of characters, and animals, simply walking around being tracked by the long camera shoots are ofe not on this front, particularly when the character has ‘the wind at their backs’.