Monday, February 26, 2007


Satantango, the movie by Bela Tarr is a piece de resistance, a tour de force of modern cinema. It doesnt matter that the movie is Eastern European, even though it could only have generated out of the changing climate of that place.
Based on Laszlo krasznahorkai's novel of the same name, the movie captures or rather shows the doings and actions of a few villagers near an unnamed town in hungary.The events unfold from different perspectives of a few characters and the plot obeys or follows a tango movement, back and forth. The clever camera movements also mimic a tango sequence and there is constant oscillation, constant change.
The movie is of long duration but never boring and things to come are made clear in the first scene. I found a constant tension in every scene, a pervading aura of sinister things having happened or about to happen, which , we as observers are not somehow aware of. The atmosphere is of gloom, of intrigue, of decay and death. The imagery is similiar too...a catastrophe has been borne and felt and the after effects are of simmering but obedient acceptance.
The vision and the message of the movie is of existential and political concerns. The villagers bear the tireless rain, unending desperation and a hopeless belief in the power of hope. Everything has been undone and things might yet work out. And then....more betrayals and more rain.
Rain, endless rain, wind, litter, mud, pools of water, men walking and walking are some motifs of the movie.
Satantango is a movie about the futility of trust and the presence of unending betrayal. It is about the loss of hope and the depravity of men and nature. It is about the stark tango of men under a merciless sky.
It does not end with hope because there is no hope ever. It ends where it started from. The movement begins again. The dance or tango starts anew.
Some scenes in this movie are cinematic rarities. There is a deep, unfathomable melancholy about this movie. However it is not a portrayal of sad events. At its very heart is a sinister, dark and inhuman tango of lives, lies, hope, death and an almost dreary negation of life.
Satantango is an important movie and its reverberations and its music will haunt the viewer forever.


Alok said...

what a wonderful summary! i just saw it last weekend on a big screen. it was really amazing.

have you read Krasznahorkai's novel The Melancholy of Resistance? It is available in english and is absolutely wonderful. Sinister, apocalyptic and very funny too. It was the basis of another tarr-krasznahorkai collaboration werckemeister harmonies.

Kubla Khan said...

yes i have. i found it better than war and war, which to me, loses its essence in the middle. i found the european episodes tiresome to read.
it is in the melancholy of resistance that Krasznahorkai has found a medium. a true expression.
however, i have not watched the Harmonies movie yet.