As far as black and white Hungarian dramas that push into the eight-hour running-time range, Bela Tarr’s epic “Sátántangó” doesn’t have much in the way of competition. And while many of its basic elements — its length, its style, its subject matter — might sound prohibitive, the wide-ranging study of life in a rural village (and then, later, out of that village) during the final days of Communism is one of cinema’s most fascinating and immersive films.
It’s also one that’s rarely seen, thanks in part to that 439-minute length (not so appealing for many theaters) and a very brief home video release (many fans have been forced to watch it on VHS bootlegs). But that’s all changing, thanks to a brand-new restoration that will soon hit theaters and eventually be available for Blu-ray consumption. Fans of Tarr can thank Arbelos Films, which worked with the Hungarian Filmlab to restore the film from its original 35mm camera negative. The boutique film distributor and digital restoration company is currently planning a Blu-ray and VOD release for the film in 2020. The Los Angeles–based Arbelos also worked on a 4K update of Dennis Hopper’s “The Last Movie.”
Set in a remote Hungarian village whose residents’ plan to leave is complicated by the return of a man they once thought dead, the film is co-written, like many of Tarr’s works, by the novelist László Krasznahorkai. It stars Tarr’s longtime musical composer Mihály Vig as the alluring and tricksy Irimiás, who returns to the struggling village with an idea that leads to a host of troubles and changes for the townspeople. “Sátántangó” is divided into 12 nonlinear parts and shot in black and white, with some takes lasting as long as 10 uninterrupted minutes. In the 2012 version of Sight & Sound’s critics’ poll, it was named the 36th greatest film of all time.
The restoration will celebrate its New York premiere this weekend at the New York Film Festival, where it will unspool on Sunday starting at noon (not to worry, there will be two intermissions during its running time). The film will be released theatrically on Friday, October 18, when it will start its run at Film at Lincoln Center.
Check out the film’s newest trailer and poster, exclusively on IndieWire, below.