Wednesday 6 June, 2018 2.30am
‘Beelzebub’s Tango’ 2018
I’m finished. I’ve completed watching a seven-hour film. Although it wasn’t straight through, or with just two short intervals, I nonetheless watched it within a period of twenty-four hours – But! – even though I’m done, I’m currently still none the wiser for what this film is about besides lots of ravishing images and several strange episodes involving drunkenness, death, deception, greed, co-operation and adultery. I don’t have time to watch this seven-hour film again to take it in for a second time immediately – but what an experience!
I can well understand that many, many people might need the patience of Job, to get through this film. I think, for me, it reflects the journey I have taken these last eleven months and five days. I watched it with barely a missed beat, enjoying the time it took to show what happens in real time when people are doing things in real-time (without an editor making a splice). Even a drunken evening at the local pub (a bar) goes on endlessly, with the same endless drunken monologues, the same relentless piano accordion music, until it has all ended in the blissful sleep of the soused.
How can anyone hope to understand a seven-hour experience of images and concepts when it’s the length of four average-length films? All I can give is this fundamental reading and try and make sense of all the information over the coming hours or, possibly, days:
A man and a woman in a house on a farm wake up. The man is not the woman’s husband. The husband comes home and the man hides but overhears a plot for Mr Schmidt to take the town people’s money and abscond with it. Futaki pretends he’s just arrived and has just overheard the conversation and asks to be cut-in. The same story is then told from the point of view of the local doctor who is spying on the adjacent house, observing all the movements in and out of the house. He makes entries of their movements in a notepad. Two men, who are suspicious characters according to the local authorities are interrogated about their presence. They plead innocence of any wrong doing even though the Captain says the evidence is stacked against them. A girl tortures her pet – a cat – and poisons it – while also observing the movements in the Schmidt’s house. The doctor runs out of alcohol and sets out for the local bar to get a top-up. The young girl also wanders around. A group of locals drink and tells stories and dance until they’re so exhausted they fall into a drunken sleep. A funeral: the girl who peered in the window is dead and Irimiás – who we knew was coming – gives a speech, asking everyone to find out what happened and accept their own personal culpability in the death. He asks them to band together in the wake of this tragedy and become a collective, where everyone’s money will support a community, rather than living as isolated locals – strangers – or even enemies. In this situation of mourning they all agree to put their money together to go somewhere new with the hope they can work as one, rather than as people indifferent to each other’s needs. Then the journey is told from three perspectives depending on who is present. In one scenario the group hear the impassioned speech by Irimiás and give him their money. In another, we see it from the point of view of the innkeeper, angry that he’s lost his clientele and yelling about how everyone has been deceived by Irimiás. In a a third scenario we hear it from two people at the rear of the dwelling who are suspicious. When the small group of followers arrives in the new place they doubt the honesty of Irimiás and one man in particular demands their money back. Irimiás happily returns it to them, saying that it is better they show their concerns and lack of faith now, rather than later. The authorities type up a document – delivered by the spies – which summarises the rebellion of the farmers and working-class, but with less peasant-like prose. The doctor continues to observe and write but this time he boards up his window which previously allowed him to see the real world as it happens outside of what he is able to see with just his eyes. Now, he is in darkness, and continues to write down his observations.
It has beautiful camera movements which are so graceful that I can’t see how it is done without a dolly. But the camera reveals there is no dolly – no tracks – and I’m dumbfounded unless it is using SteadyCam which of course would make more sense, if that was available. Clearly the film is the result of painstaking intelligence by the director and his cinematographer, the co-writer and the actors. But to what end? What is it saying, what is it expressing and why does the director think people should – or might like to – spend 8 hours dedicated to watching this film?
More thinking is required as I try to solve this, surprisingly involving, film’s mysteries.