Wednesday, March 02, 2011


Satan's Tango. HU/DE/CH 1994. PC: Von Vietinghoff Filmproduktion, Vega Film, Mozgókép Innovációs Társulás, Magyar Televízió, Télévision Suisse Romande. P: György Féher, Joachim von Vietinghoff, Ruth Waldeburger. EX: Tibor Dimény, Gábor Koncz, Ernõ Mahiály. D: Béla Tarr. SC: Lázló Krasznahorkai, Béla Tarr - based on the novel by László Krasznahorkai (1985), additional dialogue: Mihály Víg, Péter Dobai, Barna Mihók. DP: Gábor Medvigy – black and white - 1.66:1. M: Mihály Vig. S: Gyögy Kovacs. ED: Ágnes Hranitzky. Cost: Gyula Pauer, János Breckl. Narrator: Mihály Ráday. Cast: Mihály Víg (Irimiás), Dr Putyi Horváth (Petrina), Erika Bók (Estike), Peter Berling (doctor), Miklós B. Székely (Futaki), Lázsló fe Lugossy (Schmidt), Éva Almási Albert (Mrs. Schmidt), Alfréd Gaál (Mrs. Halics), János Derzsi (Kráner), Irén Szajki (Mrs Kráner), Barna Mihók (Kelemen), István Juhász (Kerekes), Zoltán Kamondi (tavern keeper Százados), Péter Dobai (captain), András Bodnár (Horgois Sanyi). 450 min. The Artifical Eye dvd (fine transfer supervised by Béla Tarr) with English subtitles viewed in Helsinki, 2 March 2011

Dedicated to Alf Bold

12 episodes: The News Is They're Coming, Rise From the Dead, Know Something, The Spider's Function I, Comes Unstitched, The Spider's Function II, Irimiás Gives a Speech, Perspective from the Front, Go to Heaven? Have Nightmares?, Perspective from the Rear, Just Trouble and Work, No Way Out.

"Devastating, enthralling for every minute of its seven hours. I'd be glad to see it every year for the rest of my life." (Susan Sontag)

Béla Tarr's magnum opus is based on the tango structure: six steps forward, six steps backwards. There is unique visual power in the black and white cinematography of the picture, and Tarr manages to spellbind at once with a realistic long take and long shot of a common cowhouse. There is a sense of suspense and tension from the beginning.

The background of the film is the collapse of the "real socialism" or state socialism in Hungary. The agricultural collective is in deep trouble, facing a dismal future, with futile expectations of the return of the charismatic Irimias - Messiah or Satan? Questions of freedom and order are debated. Sátántangó is a poem of profound disappointment laced with black humour. A farm of lost souls in the middle of the pusta, facing an unknown future.

A weird climax of the film is the long dance sequence during the rain. There are in Sátántangó affinities with the imagery, compositions, and motifs (the rain) of Andrey Tarkovsky, but Béla Tarr's visual dynamics and philosophy are quite different. Tarkovsky is a spiritualist, Tarr is a materialist. Tarr's sense of composition is even more pregnant than Tarkovsky's. 

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