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This article is about the film. For the novel on which it was based, see Satantango (novel).
Sátántangó dvd cover.jpg
DVD cover
Directed by Béla Tarr
Produced by György Fehér
Joachim von Vietinghoff
Ruth Waldburger
Screenplay by Béla Tarr
László Krasznahorkai
Story by Mihály Vig
Péter Dobai
Barna Mihók
Based on Satantango 
by László Krasznahorkai
Starring Mihály Víg
Putyi Horváth
László Lugossy
Music by Mihály Víg
Cinematography Gábor Medvigy
Release dates
  • 8 February 1994 (1994-02-08)
Running time
432 minutes
Country Hungary
Language Hungarian

Sátántangó (Hungarian pronunciation: [ˈʃaːtaːntɒŋɡoː], meaning "Satan's Tango") is a 1994 Hungarian film directed by Béla Tarr. Shot in black-and-white, it runs for more than seven hours. It is based on the novel Satantango by Hungarian novelist László Krasznahorkai, who has been providing Tarr with stories since his 1988 film Damnation. Tarr had wanted to make the film since 1985 but was unable to proceed with the production due to the strict political environment in Hungary.

In the years since its release, Sátántangó has received wide acclaim from film critics. In 2012, it appeared in the British Film Institute's Sight and Sound critics' top 50 films.


The plot deals with the collapse of a collective farm in Hungary near the end of the Communist period. Several people on the farm are eager to leave with the cash they will receive for closing down the community, but they hear that the smooth-talking and charismatic Irimiás, who had disappeared over two years ago and whom they thought to be dead, is returning. Much of the film's plot concentrates on the impact and consequences of Irimiás' return through multiple POVs as the communards must cope not only with Irimiás' scheming, but that of each other.


  • Mihály Víg as Irimiás
  • Putyi Horváth as Petrina
  • László Lugossy as Schmidt
  • Éva Almássy Albert as Mrs. Schmidt
  • János Derzsi as Kráner
  • Irén Szajki as Mrs. Kráner
  • Alfréd Járai as Halics
  • Miklós Székely B. as Futaki
  • Erzsébet Gaál as Mrs. Halics
  • Erika Bók as Estike
  • Peter Berling as Doctor



The structure of the film is based on that of the novel, which borrows, as its title suggests, from tango. That is, the film is broken into twelve parts, and does not necessarily move chronologically, as it follows the tango scheme of going six moves forward, then six back (hence 6 + 6 parts in total). The twelve parts are titled as follows (in original Hungarian and translation):

  • A hír, hogy jönnek [The News Is They Are Coming]
  • Feltámadunk [We Will Rise from the Dead]
  • Valamit tudni [Knowing Something]
  • A pók dolga I. [Spider Job I]
  • Felfeslők [Comes Unstitched]
  • A pók dolga II (Ördögcsecs, sátántangó) [Spider Job II (the Devil's Nipples, Satan's Tango)]
  • Irimiás beszédet mond [Irimiás Gives a Speech]
  • A távlat, ha szemből [The Perspective from the Front]
  • Mennybe menni? Lázálmodni? [Going to Heaven, Having Nightmares]
  • A távlat, ha hátulról [The Perspective from Behind]
  • Csak a gond, a munka [Just Trouble and Work]
  • A kör bezárul [The Circle Closes]

Long takes[edit]

The film is filled with numerous long takes, a trait found in Tarr's work. Tarr's adoption of this style has led many people to draw parallels between Tarr and Andrei Tarkovsky, both of whom opt(ed) to let their films play out at a more meditative pace. According to Tarr himself, there are roughly only 150 shots in the entire film.[1] Many shots last up to nearly 10–11 minutes, such as several dance sequences, during which the camera rarely moves, but we see the main characters dance and drink. Tarr has said that the cast was actually drunk during these scenes.[2]

The opening shot, in which the camera trucks alongside a herd of cows, lasts nearly 8 minutes. There are numerous shots depicting main characters walking (and talking) for minutes at a time, unimpeded by a cut. Whereas films that feature long takes usually have many short takes to offset the long ones, this film does not.

The book and the film[edit]

This film is based on literary sources and had a screenplay, but much of it was still improvised on set. Tarr had this to say on the subject of having a screenplay, but on his filming method in general:

"No, we never use the script. We just write it for the foundations and the producers and we use it when looking for the money. The pre-production is a very simple thing. It takes always a minimum of one year. We spend a year looking all around and we see everything. We have a story but I think the story is only a little part of the whole movie."[3]


Sátántangó was released to wide acclaim from film critics,[4] who praised Tarr's innovative camerawork. In The New York Times, Manohla Dargis lauded the director's use of long takes.[5] Jonathan Rosenbaum of the Chicago Reader has called the film his favorite of the 1990's.[6] J. Hoberman of The Village Voice described it as "one of the great, largely unseeable movies of the last dozen years,"[7] and Ed Halter proclaimed it a masterpiece.[8] Susan Sontag described Sátántangó as "devastating, enthralling for every minute of its seven hours," adding she would be "glad to see it every year for the rest of [her] life." In the 2012 Sight & Sound critics' poll of the greatest films ever made, the film tied for 35th place,[9] with 34 critics having voted for it.

Among audiences, the film has developed a cult following. In part due to its artistry and length, but also because for a long time it was unavailable on DVD: the film was briefly out in VHS and DVD formats in the 1990's, but went out of print very quickly, so only bootlegs transferred from old VHS sources were available. Sátántangó is now available in a new digital transfer supervised by Bela Tarr himself and released by Facets Video. It is infrequently shown due to its lengthy running time - although sometimes shown in two separate parts, or in its entirety with two intermissions. Tarr has said the film should be viewed without any interruption.

The film has been the subject of controversy. There is a sequence in which a child tortures and poisons her cat, which led to some difficulties in getting the film shown in the UK because of legislation protecting animals from cruelty and the British Board of Film Censors refusing to certify such films. Tarr has insisted that there was a veterinarian on the set at all times, and that the cat was under the vet's supervision.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ A Bright Light Film Journal Interview with Béla Tarr
  2. ^ Jonathan Romney (2001-03-24). "Interview: Bela Tarr, Hungarian director". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2013-08-04. 
  3. ^ Waiting For the Prince: An Interview with Béla Tarr, by Fergus Daly and Maximilian Le Cain
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ [2] "Finding Beauty in the Miserable and the Mundane"
  6. ^ [3] Jonathan Rosenbaum: 'Satantango'.
  7. ^ [4] "Bela Tarr's Marathon Masterpiece Casts a Devilish Spell"
  8. ^ [5] Bela Tarr's Slow Burn
  9. ^ "Critics’ Top 250 Films". Sight & Sound Greatest Films. British Film Institute. 2012. Retrieved 2012-09-12. 
  10. ^ Romney, Jonathan (24 March 2001). "Out of the shadows (interview with the director)". The Guardian (London). 

External links[edit]