Satantango ★★★★★

I’ve recently developed a cold, which, while probably caused by a recent lack of sleep, was exacerbated by the severe rain we had on Wednesday that soaked through my shoes (because I can’t seem to own a pair of shoes for more than a month without them falling apart) and forced me to work a shift with sopping wet feet (not to mention the re-up on the walk home), so sitting in Lincoln Center’s Francesca Beale theatre, holding in my rain-fueled mucus and watching this group of characters standing around in the pouring rain, none of whom own an umbrella, for 7 hours was quite a visceral experience.

“Plodding and plodding and plodding.”

This line, part of a spiel that’s looped for 20 minutes by the character Kelemen, whose looping reminds me an unfortunate amount of myself, is the first example that comes to mind when trying to explain what this film does to you. At first it’s funny, laughing at this drunk man repeat himself over and over, but eventually the joke stops and it becomes obnoxious, and obnoxious becomes unbearable, and now rather than laughing at these characters’ situation, we’re suffering with them. This pretty much carries over to every activity performed in the film for its whole runtime. That’s not to say Sátántangó was anywhere near the first film to use real time, but considering the film’s length and scope, I think it’s safe to say few films do it quite like this. That’s also not to say that sitting in a mostly comfortable theater and watching a movie actually allows us to suffer the same way these characters are, but I’ll call it “transportive cinema” to say the least.

The film’s form is, expectedly, something to get used to, but once you acclimate to it, it stays pretty consistent throughout. The slow pans and dolly movements create an atmosphere that I’d like to call naturalistic but in reality feels more voyeuristic and uncanny. Particularly in the second act, and this is the most Zrikean phrase I’ve uttered to date, I wonder how much influence Sátántangó had on Twin Peaks: the Return episode 8 (in fact, Raymond, I combed your reviews of the film before writing this specifically to make sure you hadn’t shared the same thought).

It’s a slice of life film in many aspects, but I was surprised by how singular the through line is with Irimiás. I was also surprised by how macabre the whole thing is. In terms of themes/commentary, there’s a lot to unpack and I’ll be sitting on this for a while, but for the time being, the closest things this reminded me of were The Grapes of Wrath and, even more so, The Lord of the Flies.

Just a quick association:
Futaki = Ralph
The Doctor = Piggy
Estike = Simon
Irimiás = Jack
Petrina/Sanyi = Roger I guess
I don’t know who would be Sam and Eric, I guess that’s where this falls apart.