Satantango ★★★½


I can confidently say I think 2 hours SHOULD have been cut. I feel less confident, but think 2.5-3 COULD be cut. I don't think it's value would have decreased with it being shortened, and I in fact think it would increase. When a project has such a daunting length it's extra hard to earn its right to do so. 7 Hour films are not commonplace, so if you have the moxie to attempt such a feat, you better have something worth the time. I don't think Satantango earned its length.

When it was great, it shined, pure cinema, in an untouchable plain of amazing; a true master’s work. When it was "bad", it was intolerable. There were entire sections that felt like a chore to sit through (the third chapter with the Doctor was excruciating). I put bad in quotation marks, because the movie is never itself bad... it’s not poorly made, it’s beautifully executed, and it's surprisingly consistent in its ideas, tones, and presentation. The problem is personal bias. This just didn't fully click with me.

I never was able to bridge the barrier of engagement to its full extent. The prologue and first two chapters, I was enthralled, hooked, and ready to go. Once the Doctor's story took over, I knew I was in for a long one. The time spent in the film wasn't used to explore deep characterization, or to really immerse you in the logic of the world, just to observe. I know I was supposed to feel immersed but I think I spent more time wanting something new to look at, or someone new to follow, or something actually worth watching to take place, that I never fully sank into the film.

I watched it with a small group and we were talking through, honestly, too much of it. It couldn’t hold the interest of the room, and I’m not really mad about it. Werkmeister Harmonies is amazing, I was completely enthralled and overtook so I don’t think it’s a lack of understanding Mr. Tarr’s style. I can also say it’s 100% not misunderstanding the content of the film, because it’s actually a pretty simple one. A look at a very small community in a troubling time in Hungary, as well as for themselves. Money always creates problems.

I missed the poetic nature of Werkmeister, this felt like Yang on steroids with its realistic approach. Sure there were minor surrealistic moments (the church bells, or describing the nightmares) but this is pretty much just a slice of life flick. As I’ve watched more and more movies I’ve come to find, I don’t care for a 100% depiction of reality, that’s not why I escape to movies, I want just that - an escape.

I wouldn’t mind revisiting this one day (like at least two years down the road), but I will never watch this is one sitting again. I think I’d like to approach it in a mini-series/episodic form, I think then the style wouldn’t feel so overbearing.

As a piece of art, I think it has immense value, and much to appreciate. As a movie, it’s good. Nothing more than Good, which in my mind is pretty much failure for such an Epic piece. Anything less than a perfect 10 really would be.

EDIT: I also realized, yesterday I was struggling to fully gather my thoughts (its long if you haven't figured that out by now). So I thought I was going to have to give it a few days to really collect. About four hours into my shift this morning at work, I realized I already was ready to not think about this movie again for a long time. It's one that certainly isn't going to stick with me forever; though the experience of watching it probably will.

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