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Few films use animals to comment on its characters to the extent that Sátántangó does. This thematic conceit is laid out in the film’s notorious opening shot, an 8+ minute tracking shot of cows grazing a barren Hungarian wasteland, moving from one muddy patch to the next with little sense of purpose (and occasionally trying to screw each other). Aside from its purpose as a stylistic rejoinder to the much more audience-friendly pacing and aesthetics of typical films, it functions as an amusing, low-key overture for the rest of the film. Because dumb animals living purposeless lives in flux, and occasionally screwing each other, isn’t far from the mark in describing Sátántangó‘s characters. The people in this film are thoughtless and crude, content to mire around in the muck; only financial opportunity (more to the point, greed, a base instinct) acts as sufficient motivation for them to get off their asses and do something. Even then, they’re led around by the nose as a rabbit might be with a carrot, instead of taking their own initiative.

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