The Temptation of St Tony

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Here is my review of this film published in Take One magazine:-

The deliciously intriguing, witty opening – a peculiar funeral procession which is rudely interrupted in a most unexpected manner – sets the tone for this Estonian curiosity. It’s the beginning of a bizarre story which follows Tony, a middle manager who seems in a constant state of bewilderment, on a series of strange and ever more troubling encounters.

 

The narrative is full of unexpected and outlandish elements, as the story moves from the eccentric to something much more gruesome. The film is clearly inspired by, and makes reference to, a number of other filmmakers: Buñuel, in its sense of the surreal and an ever present potential for the unexpected; Lynch in its weird and unsettling juxtapositions, and its palpable sense of menace beneath the everyday; Roy Andersson in the precisely composed scenes, with their dead-pan humour; even Bela Tarr in some of those slow tracking shots over rain sodden earth (thanks to the striking black and white photography of Mart Taniel).

 

Somehow, though, writer/director Veiko Õunpuu brings together these elements in a coherent, distinctive modern fable on morality. The film explores the dilemmas and confusions in making moral choices, both in relation to the wider social setting of capitalism and its corporate imperatives, but also more importantly in the personal predicaments that Tony, our non-descript modern-day Saint Anthony, faces. Taavi Eelmaa is perfect casting as Tony, his face subtlety registering every possible kind of bafflement as he tries to negotiate his way through the strange, almost Kafkaesque, world he finds himself in. As the story descends ever more into the nightmarish, satanic ‘forest dark’ of the Dante quote captioned at the start of the film, the moral choices become ever more confusing and troubling, and the nature of goodness more elusive.

 

THE TEMPTATION OF ST TONY is a film which is fresh, bold, and stimulating. It is also deliberately provocative: the final, unforgettable incident in the story – reminiscent of a notorious Peter Greenaway scene – is both grotesque and distastefully ironic, but perhaps the most fitting finale for this contemporary ‘saint’. Whatever your reaction, THE TEMPTATION OF ST TONY is guaranteed to stimulate the most lively of post-film discussions.

 

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