Red Psalm centers around a small peasants' revolt in 1890. It draws inspiration from the Hungarian revolutionary movements of the 19th century, including the Hungarian Revolution of 1848, of which Sándor Petőfi, the poet whose work the film's Hungarian title references, was a participant. Like most of Jancsó's best-known works, Red Psalm is loosely based on events from Hungarian history. Shot in very long, carefully choreographed takes, the film features only 26 shots. Unlike Jancsó's previous films, which used music only sparsely, almost every scene in Red Psalm features music, usually performed by the on-screen characters. The songs include Hungarian folk music and songs in Russian and English, most famously "Charlie Is My Darling" (a variation on a Scots song later adopted during the American Civil War as the pro-Union "Johnny Is My Darling"). Due to this large number of songs and dances, the movie is sometimes described as a musical.