“In reality, hope is the worst of all evils, because it prolongs the torments of man.”
Friedrich Nietzsche, Human, All-too-Human

The novel Sátántangó by László Krasznahorkai shares many of the same themes as Eugene O’Neill’s play The Iceman Cometh. Hope and deception are central to both stories. The film versions of each reinforce their similarities. Neither clearly resolves the issue of deception in the end. Instead, they both offer the question, “Is false hope better than no hope at all?”

Is false hope better than no hope at all?

John Frankenheimer’s 1973 production of The Iceman Cometh for the American Film Theater is a near word-for-word adaptation of the play, while Bela Tarr’s 1994 adaptation of the novel Sátántangó is an extended yet faithful meditation on the work, carried out in collaboration with the novelist. The remainder of this essay will refer only to these film adaptations of the source material, unless otherwise noted.
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