• Sátántangó (Arbelos Films) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Arbelos Films
    Released on: January 12th, 2021.
    Director: Béla Tarr
    Cast: Erika Bok, Mihaly Vig, Dr. Putyi Horvath, Mikloos B. Szekely
    Year: 1994
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    Sátántangó – Movie Review:

    Directed by Hungarian filmmaker Béla Tarr and released in 1994, the seven-and-a-half-hour-long Sátántangó, based on the novel by László Krasznahorkai, is the very definition of a slow burn, but so too is it a completely rewarding piece of arthouse cinema. The daunting running time of the feature may, understandably, make this a challenge to get through in one sitting, but the magic of home video allows viewers to absorb this sprawling, yet somehow completely intimate, work of cinema as they see fit.

    Set in Hungary as communism falls just as quickly as it rose, a small agricultural commune struggles to ensure that its populace is well looked after. Living conditions here could be charitably described as less than adequate, which leads a few of the more conniving members of the village to come up with a way to make off with all of the year’s profits for themselves, screwing over everyone else who had clearly done their share to make the most of a bad situation.

    Things are not good in the village. Various occupants have started taking their marriage vows less seriously than maybe they should, and both cheating and stealing are starting to become commonplace where once they were mere concepts. Schmidt (László Lugossy) is one of the men hoping to make it off with the loot, but he doesn't realize that his wife (Éva Almássy Albert - whose character is credited as Schmidtné ) screws around behind his back with his comrade, Futaki (Miklós Székely B.). As Schmidt and the others try to move forward with their plan, little details of their life in the village creep up and make things far more difficult than they first seemed. One a former resident of the town, long thought to have passed on, shows up out of nowhere, the lives of all involved become unexpectedly altered in ways that they could have never expected.

    The black and white cinematography from Gábor Medvigy is the real star of this show, an understated and deliberately paced drama that takes frequent, if not unexpected, turns into seriously dark territory. Cut into twelve different ‘movements,’ the film is languid in its pacing, often times skipping throughout its timeline without much regard as to where this might place the viewer’s mindset, but stick with it, this all works out in the end even if it takes a good while to get there.

    Loaded with social commentary as to the pros and cons of post-communist Hungary, Sátántangó may portray many of the village’s occupants as lecherous alcoholics but it succeeds in giving a ‘worst and all’ look at the trials and tribulations that still exist in extremely rural farming communities, inside and outside of the Eastern Bloc, to this day. It isn’t always an easy film to watch, often dealing with some uncomfortable subject matter, but once you give yourself over to the movie’s deliberately slow pacing it becomes a remarkably tense work that pulls you in and doesn’t let go. Had this been made in 2020 you almost get the feeling it could have been done as a TV mini-series, as a near eight-hour stint in a theater is certainly going to be a turn off to most viewers, but when watched at your own pace this turns out to be a ridiculously rewarding and frequently very challenging look at the fragility of the human condition and the effects of politics and economics on that remarkably fragile subject.

    Sátántangó – Blu-ray Review:

    Arbelos Films presents Sátántangó spread across two 50GB discs in AVC encoded 1080p high definition presentations framed at 1.66.1 widescreen taken from a new 4k restoration of the original 35mm negative. The black and white transfer looks excellent, showing fantastic detail, depth and texture and ensuring that contrast always looks right. Black levels are deep, whites are clean and greys cover everything in between quite nicely. There are no noticeable issues with compression artifacts, edge enhancement or noise reduction and the whole thing looks nice and film-like. Arbelos has done a great job here, the movie looks fantastic.

    The 24-bit DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track is presented in the film’s proper Hungarian language with optional subtitles provided in English only. Quality is strong here as well. While the track may be limited in range, it is nicely balanced and it sounds very good. The subtitles are clear and easy to read and free of any noticeable typographical errors.

    Extras start off with a new video interview with composer and actor Mihály Víg entitled A Sense Of Rhythm. In this forty-one-minute piece we learn how he came to do double duty, creating the score for the film and also playing Irimiás in the feature. He gives us plenty of details on his education and background, talks about how he came to be involved with this feature, meeting Béla Tarr and then the different collaborations that they’ve embarked on together.

    A new video essay entitled Orders Of Time In Motion" by Kevin B. Lee runs just a hair under twenty-minuets and offers up an informed opinion on the different tricks employed in the film's cinematography with an emphasis on the many long shots that are employed in the feature. He talks about why Barr used this tactic in the film and the effect that they have on the viewer as they watch the feature.

    Also found here is a 2007 archival interview with director Béla Tarr that runs twenty-three-minutes. Here Howard Feinstein talks about the origins of the film, how Barr got into the film business, the source material and how it had to evolve in a sense to become the film included released here, the themes that dominate the narrative and much more.

    Rounding out the extras on the two discs is a U.S. theatrical trailer, menus and chapter selection.

    Sátántangó - The Final Word:

    Arbelos Films has given Béla Tarr’s challenging – yet wholly rewarding - Sátántangó an excellent release. The presentation is top notch, presenting this film in the quality that it deserves to be seen in, and with some choice supplements included that explore its themes and document its history. Highly recommended!

    Click on the images below for full sized Sátántangó Blu-ray screen caps!