Surprisingly resonating, this little film from the wilds of Estonia, is a sharply focused take on the classic tale of St. Anthony, done in such a way as to make one instantly recall such past auteurs as Tarkovsky, Bunuel, Bresson and Renoir. The opening scene is pure Bergman. The Temptation of St. Tony, directed by Veiko ’unpuu, explores the ideas of the modern world by showing the strange half-built state of affairs in the former Soviet state (the bourgeois attitudes prevalent amongst the typical middle management bureaucrats whilst traipsing about in the seeming visual poverty of newly built homes on ugly, fauna-less tracts of land - Huxley's grey squat buildings with a twist) all the while ensconced inside the world of Hieronymus Bosch, whose "Temptation of St. Anthony" is the main visual starting point for the film's core essence.
Shot in crisp black and white (so crisp one could call it black and silver even) ’unpuu gives us a tale that is pure Kafka (via Tarkovksy visually and Bunuel spiritually) interspersed with visions of a Hellish possibility that twists the film into a nightmare of sorts. Our faithful, and fateful protag is homebound after a party when he hits and kills a dog. He then proceeds to drag the dog into the woods to hide the "evidence" and stumbles upon a severed human hand. Upon further inspection, our man finds a pile of dozens and dozens of severed human hands. This is the beginning of the Kafkaesque nightmare, which roller coasters its way through Hell and back and onto its inevitably tragic, and incessantly twisted finale.
The centerpiece of the film though is the Bosch-like Hell that plays itself as some sort of nightclub-cum-cannibalistic whorehouse where our "hero" must save the waif-like (read: pretty, but used wouldbe crack whore) damsel-in-distress he has become enamoured with - and since we are throwing in so many influences, let's toss David Lynch in right around here. The place is made up in such a way that we would not be surprised to find the disfiguring face of Tom Waits dancing about in some sinister manner - and for a second we almost seem to, though after first glance we find the French actor Denis Lavant in this spot. Whatever the case may be, this strangely sublime nightmare of a movie, in its crisper-than-crisp black and silver photography, impossible Kafkaesque storyline, Bosch-inspired visual audacity and Tarkovskyian layerings, The Temptation of St. Tony is a film one will be hard pressed to avert their eyes from, even in the most disturbing of moments. [01/03/11]