Wednesday, 10 November 2010

LEEDS FIM FEST REVIEW: The Temptation of St Tony

If David Lynch made an Estonian film, The Temptation of St Tony would be it. The blurb referred to “echoes of Lynch” but I must say I was constantly thinking about him all the time – from the night terror Tony’s wife has about the woman walking towards her, from Tony’s meeting with the priest in the abandoned church (who then proceeds to walk up a wall) and to The Golden Age debauchery club at the end – this had Lynch booming all over it. Not sure if director Veiko Ounpuu is familiar with his work – if not, it’s comforting to know there are two people out there both with the same deranged imagination.

Don’t ask me to explain the plot because I can’t. From what I got: Tony is an ordinary man living in modern day Tallinn whose wife is adrift and cold, his manager is making him close down a factory leaving many workers redundant, he’s fallen in love with one of the worker’s daughters who he helped escape from a police station, and on top of all that is haunted by guilt after running over a dog with his car. And finding lots of mutilated hands in a forest as a result.

It’s enough to make you realise that one watch of this film isn’t nearly enough to understand it. But is it all bollocks or full of profound meaning? It’s unfair to compare Ounpuu so closely with Lynch as well, particularly in this regard, as it’s quite easy to rule him off as a pale imitation of a recognisable director whose work is trying to be allegorical but is actually just style. It would be interesting to read some detailed analysis on the film and some interviews with Ounpuu to get some insight – he’s clearly a talented visionary (the film is all black and white, with long sequences that are dreamy, surreal and absurd but beautiful) and while he may be influenced by many other filmmakers (Bergman, Fellini, Bunuel, and Tarkovski have been mentioned in other reviews and I would also throw in Kubrick) he has his own unique freaky stories to tell. Also hugely awed by the soundtrack at times – the ever increasing ominous marching as he’s burying the dog in the snow is so powerful.

As the film is divided into 5 acts (and I’m sure the film buffs will name each act after the particular stage of Tony’s ordeal) the film is quite easy to digest, and whilst at times you don’t have a clue what’s going on, there’s always something on screen to intrigue, engage or disgust about The Temptation of St Tony. One of the most interesting films to come out of Eastern Europe in recent years, and a film to get Estonia noticed. Definitely worth a peek if you like your films disturbing and complex, and though it was a marmite film with LIFF audiences it’s one you’ll be talking about all the way home from the cinema.

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