Living through Sátántángo is like being thrown into a dimension diametrically opposite that of our velocity-laden everyday media sensorium, with its its hyperbolic stimulation of the nervous system. Tarr's film, based on a novel by László Krasnahorkai, evokes with equal explicitness the experience of duration -- the "time-image" -- found in Tarkovsky's films. Tarr takes his time with each scene, with each chapter of the "Dance Order" in which the film is organized. The dance of death, with earth already hell, is the governing metaphor, joined by another powerful one: that of the spider's web, and the intrication in it of victims (both characters and spectators, undoubtedly). The Dance Order runs as follows:
I. The News That They are Coming
II. We are Resurrected
III. Knowing Something
IV. The Work of the Spider (1)
V. The Net Tears
VI. The Work of the Spider (2)
VI. Irimiás Speaks
V. The Perspective, When from the Front
IV. Ascension, Feverdream?
III. The Perspective, When from Behind
II. Nothing but Worries, Nothing but Work
I. The Circle Closes
"History is not at an end, nothing is at an end, we can no longer deceive ourselves that anything with us has come to an end; something continues and is retained." -- Lászlo Krasznahorkai on Sátántángo
Sátántángo concerns a small town whose factory, its sole economy, has closed, where alcohol dominates everyone's lives, where everyone distrusts each other, where every material thing, building, piece of clothing, gives off the air of dilapidation and impending death, while pure existence and its unendurable duration continues on, and drags the relics of humans and objects with it. If that weren't enough, the rainy season has begun and will continue for months without a single letup.
Only two people hold on, however slightly, to semblance of distance and independence: the Doctor and Irimiás, a false prophet who returns, after declaring himself dead, to lead the human remnants into a new era. Both turn out to be informants, linked to the corrupt and capricious power of a state surveillance apparatus. Both practice the art of writing.