One of my all-time favorite memories of moviegoing in the Twin Cities was the time a friend and I trudge out on one of the coldest weekends of the yeat out to Oak Street Cinema — a theater hardly known for blasting their heat during those last few years of financial difficulty — to settle in for a long winter’s screening of Bela Tarr’s 1994 masterpiece Satantango.
A movie that’s 450 minutes long.
You think I’m kidding? I brought my own blanket.
With hypnotically long takes (there are allegedly only 100 or so shots in the film’s entirety), Satantango is, depending on who you ask or believe, Tarr’s parable for the fall of Communism or an extraordinarily concentrated portrait of the daily minutiae of a muddy rural town’s (often drunk) residents, the sort of movie that attracts an audience inversely proportional to the opening weekend crowds of Hunger Games.
So, while that blockbuster is breaking records, why not take in Tarr’s latest (and, as he says, last) movie at the Walker Art Center. Go ahead and call the movie Hunger Games if it helps.
Tarr begins his movie with a story that explains the title.
“In Turin on 3rd January, 1889, Friedrich Nietzsche steps out of the doorway of number six, Via Carlo Albert. Not far from him, the driver of a hansom cab is having trouble with a stubborn horse. Despite all his urging, the horse refuses to move, whereupon the driver loses his patience and takes his whip to it. Nietzsche comes up to the throng and puts an end to the brutal scene, throwing his arms around the horse’s neck, sobbing. His landlord takes him home, he lies motionless and silent for two days on a divan until he mutters the obligatory last words, and lives for another ten years, silent and demented, cared for by his mother and sisters. We do not know what happened to the horse.”
From there, he goes all Au hasard Balthazar on us, presenting a becalmed but persistent sort of numbed exertion, the daily grind for a horse and its master.
I know spring is in the air and the exploits of Katniss and Peeta are calling, but if you care at all about the end of cinema, you’ll probably want to check out Tarr’s funeral procession.