Stoned in Estonia

In a godless world, the tenuous morality of men is all that stands between us and the blood-and-spittle-soaked end of civilization. A nondescript, nouveau riche, midlevel manager in a white trench coat would seem a poor candidate on whom to stake our doomed species, but that’s the black-joke logic underlying Estonian director Veiko Õunpuu’s existential allegory, The Temptation of St. Tony. Drifting numbly through a midlife crisis after his father’s death, our deadpan antihero everyman (played with remarkable physical commitment by Taavi Eelmaa) is nonetheless sufficiently conscious to recognize cruelty, and to intercede in the case of a vulnerable young woman. But it’s not the plot that drives this haunting, transporting, and unsettling movie; rather, it's Ounpuu’s sharp and stark black-and-white compositions of dismal Northern European landscapes. (Fans of Eastern European cinema, from subversive Iron Curtain–era parables to Bela Tarr’s artful nightmares, should be getting tingles right about now.) When the screen fades to white after the wintry final sequence, and the acoustic pickings and harmonies of David Crosby’s unexpected yet wonderfully appropriate "The Lee Shore" play under the end credits, you might feel like the last person on Earth.
Dec. 3-9, 2010

 
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