Satan Said Dance


Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

Satan Said Dance
"In this deck of cards with Jokers there are wild moments, enough variety that whatever faces Karolina there is something there in black and red to conjure with."

Satan Said Dance starts with a textual prologue -

"This film is a puzzle. 54 moments in a life. Nine each in six colours. They can be put together in 43 billion ways and they will always tell the same story."

Copy picture

This is roughly half correct. The film is a puzzle. It has 54 'moments', each in its own way arresting, their brevity meaning that the composition is less that of the moving than the still image, though the scenes depicted are both moving and moving. There are nine, each in one of six colours. They can be put together in 230,843,697,339,241,380,472,092,742,683,027,581,083,278,564,571,807,941,132,288,000,000,000,000 combinations, a number so large that writing it out risks not only a reader's (and also an editor's) patience but the ability of language to describe numbers, racing heedlessly up into mathematics that are so large even physics cannot make them comprehensible, where if each of those combinates were a meter they could run the width of the observable universe a billion times or two and still have change. Though that nine in six colours rings a different bell, being an accurate description of the layout of a Rubik's cube. Those are quite differently constrained, and there are some 43 quadrillion ways ("billiard", depending on how awkwardly European one feels) to arrange those. They do, probably, tell the same story: of a young novelist, culture journalist, woman; Karolina. She's Polish, big in Japan. Though it's not just the maths that's a little off. If we're being nationalist about it, Rubik was Hungarian.

It doesn't matter. In this deck of cards with Jokers there are wild moments, enough variety that whatever faces Karolina there is something there in black and red to conjure with. A habit of film I heartily endorse is to make soundtrack diegetic through mixing when those on screen remove their headphones, a moment I am happy to see slide into anything. Here, Placebo's Bruise Pristine, a slice of nostalgia for my own adolescence, an MTV2 sensibility, mascara made madeleine.

It's the kind of film where one starts to wonder if sets have been re-used not just from budgetary sensibilities but to draw other parallels, from restaurants to porn shoots, but lines of all kinds abound - far from straight-laced, Karolina's success breeds excess. The doll-faced novel excerpts are some Photoshop(TM) of Dorian Gray, and just as Wilde's literary endeavours sometimes seemed epigrams stitched together in service of a plot Satan Said Dance is witticism from which narrative emerges.

Eye For Film saw one version, once, but there's an inclination to see it again, but with the benefit of distance it's not certain if the order matters. The story is still implied, outwith the tesseract. The fourth wall is not broken, but it is stretched - we the audience are invited to add meaning, but are hands are not held as much as they are in Kaleidoscope. This too is tumbling, but it has more axes, some of which it grinds.

There are moments of genuine disquiet here. One moment recalls Louis XV's deluge. There are moments of genuine insight here - director Katarzyna Roslaniec is saying something when someone says "it has it's advantages because it's fresh". There are moments of genuine beauty here, and accurate reflections, and five colour coded dogs, and a men's room full of foam, and square frames, something that might be real Japanese television or a convincing simulacrum of what we perceive Japanese television to be, and even as one establishes the boundaries of what is happening we have something else. Magdalena Berus has worked with Roslaniec before, and in Karolina's variety she shines, sullenly, strikingly.

There was apparently an app, a tag-line for this that mentions Instagram, and perhaps in its intent and execution this is dated in a particular way. I have an abiding memory of a teaching assistant proudly displaying a copy of a novel with its pages unbound - my memory insists it was a Penguin but it is unlikely that it was, a different (here relevant) combination of coloured borders and central text, probably Saporta's Composition No. I and not Cain's Jawbone nor Johnson's Unfortunates, but I am leveraging something that stuck decades ago and combinations of words and phrases and places and techniques to reach something that has the ring of (naked) truth. Parts make a whole, even if it's a collage of collapse, like Polaroids these are square-bordered outposts of a different age - not just culturally, hormonally, physically, that whole differently distributed future that's reflected in post-Soviet spaces. Any hope of imposing a timeline in an absence of narrative that is this branching would tax even the largest of chalkboards, hip to be a square is left far behind in this unfolding. Even still, a good combination.

Reviewed on: 05 Feb 2018
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Satan Said Dance packshot
After the success of a novel, a woman's life starts to fall apart.

Director: Katarzyna Roslaniec

Writer: Katarzyna Roslaniec

Starring: Tygo Gernandt, Marta Nieradkiewicz, Bartosz Gelner, Danuta Stenka, Izabela Kuna, Lukasz Simlat, Magdalena Berus, Tomasz Tyndyk, Moe Abbas, Jacek Poniedzialek, Lieke Scholman, Hanna Koczewska, John Porter

Year: 2017

Runtime: 97 minutes

Country: Netherlands, Poland


EIFF 2017

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