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Containing all this in one frame occasions a kind of elegant chaos.Despite Tarr’s reluctance to answer the same old question, he does offer a useful observation about his long takes: they provide “a special tension between the actors and the camera.Not long ago, copies of the film were hard to come by, and even now, after the 2008 Facets Multi-Media release of the DVD box, purchasing the film will run you at least .Good luck catching a screening outside of New York or other big-city centers of culture (online forums are filled with hopeful but often unanswered inquiries as to local screenings).But when you think about it, that’s something you can’t say about most movies—you really have to decide to watch Sátántangó.You won’t find it on TV; you wouldn’t be likely to stream it on a whim, even if it were available on Netflix instant.Filmed between 19—delayed in part because political antipathy toward his previous effort, Almanac of Fall, had put Tarr in “really deep shit”—Sátántangó actually runs 435 black and white minutes, closer to seven and a half than eight hours.Still, when you account for changing out the DVD set’s three discs, which for me involved shooing the cat off of the plastic case, not to mention stretching, bathroom, and eating breaks, you’re looking at an all day experience, a test, many viewers agree, of cinematic endurance.
The power of the scene’s long takes, their tension, comes not so much from narrative suspense (“What will happen?Of his 1988 film Damnation, Tarr says: “…if you’re a Hollywood studio professional, you could tell this story in 20 minutes.” The same thing, relatively, could be said about Sátántangó. Which may be why he paces his films closer to “real time.” What happens, I think, if we make ourselves available to this rejection of our usual moviegoing expectations, is that we become invested in the lives we’re witnessing.Another director might cut the minutes-long opening tracking shot, starring a slow gang of lowing cows, to a more commercial 5.5 seconds. The more urgent they become, the faster time seems to move, and before you know it, you’re changing discs.The “story,” an aspect of filmmaking secondary in Tarr’s estimation to image, sound, and emotion (“I don’t care about stories. After the body of a local young girl (Erika Bók) turns up, the messiah-figure Irimiás (Mihály Vig) offers a frank but seemingly empathetic appraisal of the estate’s depleted and dejected community; then, with the help of his sidekick Petrina (Putyi Horváth), he convinces the hangers-on that if they give him their pooled savings, he will arrange a better future for them…Structurally, the film retains the novel’s organizing “tango”: six steps (chapters) forward, six steps back.
” Of course the first question is more easily answered than the second.