8.4/10
9,187
57 user 55 critic

Satantango (1994)

Sátántangó (original title)
Not Rated | | Drama | 28 April 1994 (Hungary)
Trailer
2:46 | Trailer
On the eve of a large payment, residents of a collapsing collective farm see their plans turn into desolation when they discover that Irimiás, a former co-worker who they thought was dead, is returning to the village.

Director:

Béla Tarr

Writers:

László Krasznahorkai (novel), Mihály Vig (story) | 4 more credits »
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5 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Mihály Vig Mihály Vig ... Irimiás
Putyi Horváth Putyi Horváth ... Petrina (as Dr. Putyi Horváth)
László feLugossy László feLugossy ... Schmidt
Éva Almássy Albert Éva Almássy Albert ... Schmidtné (as Éva Almási Albert)
János Derzsi ... Kráner
Irén Szajki Irén Szajki ... Kránerné
Alfréd Járai Alfréd Járai ... Halics
Miklós Székely B. Miklós Székely B. ... Futaki
Erzsébet Gaál Erzsébet Gaál ... Halicsné
György Barkó György Barkó ... Iskolaigazgató
Zoltán Kamondi Zoltán Kamondi ... Kocsmáros
Barna Mihók Barna Mihók ... Kerekes
Péter Dobai Péter Dobai ... Százados
András Bodnár András Bodnár ... Horgos Sanyi
Erika Bók ... Estike
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Storyline

In a small, dilapidated village in 1990s Hungary, life has come to a virtual stand-still. The Autumn rains have started. A few of the villagers expect to receive a large cash payment that evening, and then plan to leave. Some want to abscond earlier with more than their fair share of the money. However they hear that the smooth-talking Irimias, who they thought had died, is returning. They are apprehensive that he will take all their money in one of his grandiose schemes to keep the community going. Written by Will Gilbert

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Trivia

This film has a 100% rating based on 21 critic reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. See more »

Quotes

Százados: Not that human life was so highly valued. Keeping order appears to be the business of the authorities, but in fact it's the business of all. Order. Freedom, however, has nothing human. It's something divine, something... our lives are too short for us to know properly. If you're looking for a link, think of Pericles, order and freedom are linked by passion. We have to believe in both, we suffer from both. Both from order and freedom. But human life is meaningful, rich, beautiful and filthy. It ...
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Connections

Referenced in Elephant (2003) See more »

User Reviews

 
A beginner's guide to Satantango
15 April 2012 | by poikkeusSee all my reviews

Goaded on by curiosity, I saw SATANTANGO at the Pacific Film Archive several years ago. Critics gushed that SATANTANGO was without parallel - but two hours into the movie, I was less than impressed. Very little plot. Black and gray photography. Segments that went on seemingly forever, with no clear point. Much of the audience filed out early, and I left early, too. Was the director, Bela Tarr, trying to make the film an endurance contest?

More recently, I consulted the Internet Movie Database to see what was written about SATANTANGO. The cumulative rating of 8.5 of 10 was impressive, as were the write-ups. "A stunning experience," says one viewer. "Biggest cinematic experience in history," says another. The kudos go on and on. But if you scroll down the database, you'll also find the negative reviews. "Self- indulgent, annoying," one writer says. One of the more measured responses is, "I do not regret that I saw this movie, but I certainly to not think it was a day well-spent" - after giving the film a 1 of 10 rating.

So, I decided to see the film again - this time on DVD - to determine if my initial dismissal at the PFA was warranted. And I learned how to appreciate a different kind of movie - and even come to enjoy it. My hints to a naive viewer:

  • Calibrate your attention span. The individual takes of SATANTANGO are unusually long; the first scene, set outside a pen for steers and chickens, lasts over eight minutes, with no cuts. Just a single tracking shot. This happens through the entire film; in fact, the long takes and slow tracking shots give the film its rhythm and style. If you go into SATANTANGO expecting a film paced to contemporary standards, you'll be disappointed. If you can, take a few breaks between segments - and ask questions.


  • Learn about recent European history. It's possible to enjoy SATANTANGO on its own merits, but understanding recent history helps greatly. The film dramatizes the economic depression that gripped the break-up of the Soviet blok, and things gone very bad, indeed. There's crumbling infrastructure everywhere. People struggle to get by, just barely, by depending on agricultural collectives (like the one depicted in SATANTANGO). This gray, depressing worldview would eventually engulf the region.


  • Structure, structure, structure. The key to appreciating SATANTANGO lies in understanding the film's structure. Another reviewer here aptly mentioned Akira Kurosawa's RASHOMON, wherein the film's narrative is defined by a single event - told in entirely different ways by the main characters. SATANTANGO uses a similar technique; several characters experience the same segment of time from different points of view. The eight-minute "preface" introduces us to the collective itself - where the barebones infrastructure is shown. From here, each segment of the film is separated by an inter-title; when a new segment starts, we see the same action - from a new character's POV. But nearly every segment involves leaving this wet, cold, impoverished piece of hell - or try to exploit it.


  • Dance "the Satantango." The musical segments can open the way to appreciating and even enjoying SATANTANGO. Music is important for Tarr, and the repeating figures of dance are a metaphor. The tango is a repeating dance that abides by the rule, "one step forward, two steps back." It's reflected in the lives of the characters, who take one step forward in their lives, but always end up two steps back. The "chapters" of the film don't move forward like a typical narrative work; it repeats the same segment of time, over and over again. If you're frustrated by the fact that the movie seems static - that's the point. SATANTANGO is a story that can't move forward; it repeats the same familiar song, over and over - until a development determines a new course of action for the characters.


I didn't enjoy SATANTANGO when I saw it the first time, but I've since become a fan. The investment of time may seem extreme to some, but it's more than worthwhile.


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Details

Official Sites:

Official site [Japan]

Country:

Hungary | Germany | Switzerland

Language:

Hungarian

Release Date:

28 April 1994 (Hungary) See more »

Also Known As:

Satantango See more »

Filming Locations:

Hungary See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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