Stefan’s review published on Letterboxd:
I'm in a strange emotional state upon finishing "Satantango", an emotional state I can't recall a film leaving me in before. "Satantango" is a film I have known of since I was 9 years old which is when I was beginning to research a lot about film history, and became very intrigued and intimidated by the fact that this film ran for 7.5 hours. Choosing to watch it now, about 6 years after finding out about its existence, I find myself completely fulfilled and not underwhelmed as I feared I may be.
From the very beginning, "Satantango" manages to pull you into this world - a bleak Hungarian village that deals with the fall of Communism once present in Hungary, and the inhabitants of this village that are followed in this film. The film uses really long takes, some going past 10 minutes of the camera remaining static on a subject (the director states there are 150 shots all up) and at first it feels like a bit much, but as the runtime goes on, a sense of time starts to be lost. I looked at the current timestamp a few times to see that an hour had gone by sometimes, without even realising it.
The film uses the neorealist style which was utilised by filmmakers such as Vittorio De Sica where films were made in countries such as Italy after World War 2, where destruction was immense and these films showed people living their mundane day-to-day lives in these films set against this harsh backdrop of post-WW2 destruction. They would portray the hardships and struggles people were going through. Satantango takes this approach and uses it to illustrate the absolutely horrifying experience they had with Communism in Hungary, where unemployment was at its highest and the country's debt was immensely large. Bela Tarr was influenced by this technique of filmmaking and used it to tell a tragedy which his home country had faced, and it makes for some of the bleakest and lifeless backdrops in cinema history; the dilapidated homes people live in, the wet mud that oozes on the roads, the desperation and sadness people have in this village - its really impactful, and I feel it is because of this mundanity depicted by Bela Tarr over the course of the films runtime that it has a very strong effect.
And this is what I loved about this film, it grabs you completely right from the start, hypnotising you in its guise for its entire runtime, with the beauty of every shot and the emotional value accompanying this really made this so beautiful to watch, despite being so bleak and nihilistic.
The film is also very haunting, with the long takes and the brilliant accordion soundtrack leaving this sense of uneasiness when watching. The plot and characters also play a part in this, and you get completely engulfed in some characters here, and usually the characters here are looked into for around an hour at the minimum roughly, before everything starts intertwining magnificently in this way that just works to a haunting and beautiful effect.
I haven't really properly reviewed this film here, because I quite simply don't know how. This is a film that deserves to be seen instead of being described by someone else like myself, so if you are able to carve out the time one day to sit down and watch this, I highly suggest doing so.
To conclude this - "Satantango" is a masterpiece, one that has haunted me, fulfilled me and hypnotised me with its beauty and utter brilliance. Going into this, I thought I may be in for a tiresome slog of pretentiousness, which I was proved wrong by. What I didn't think I'd say after watching this however is that I am really excited to rewatch this someday soon, for it is one of the most beautiful films I have seen in my life.