To appreciate Veiko Õunpuu’s artful tale of moral confusion, let’s begin where he does—with Dante’s Inferno: “Midway upon the journey of our life, I found myself within a forest dark.”
Tony, a middle-aged, midlevel manager, leads a quiet life. But one day, he starts to question the value of being good. In a series of bizarre encounters in which he fires his employees, witnesses his wife’s infidelity, and meets a soon-to-be kidnapped girl (never mind the severed hands and mystery dog), Tony gradually becomes unhinged from reality.
Õunpuu’s second feature asks, what good is goodness when all it brings is loss? He gleefully supplants our sense of narrative context with avant-garde flourishes, wryly devised vignettes, and unfolding metaphors, stranding us in poor Tony’s forest dark. Provocative and evasive, the film infuses chaotic energy and emotional tension into its elegant black-and-white imagery. Õunpuu’s stark vision feels more like a dream (or nightmare) and recalls the beauty of being oblique. —Sundance Film Festival
Veiko Õunpuu (born March 16, 1972 in Saaremaa) is an Estonian film director and screenwriter who is best known for his artistic movies Autumn Ball (Sügisball, 2007) and The Temptation of St. Tony (Püha Tõnu kiusamine, 2009). Õunpuu’s films are usually slow paced artistic movies with eccentric characters. In 2006 he wrote and directed independent short film Empty (Tühirand). In 2007 he adapted Mati Unt’s novel Autumn Ball (Sügisball) that won Horizon Award in Venice Film Festival and is still the highest international recognition Estonian film ever had. In 2010 Õunpuu’s second feature drama The Temptation of St. Tony (Püha Tõnu kiusamine) screened in Sundance Film Festival. The film was selected as Estonia’s submission for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film at the 83rd Academy Awards, but it didn’t make the final shortlist. —wikipedia
A rewatch may happen one day, but this was such a disappointment. So many influences - Lynch certainly - and moments that try to evoke a theme of existential dread, but it tries too hard with its fantastical images without ever reaching a deeper message or a deranged power. Against Mother Joan of Angels in the 2012 World Cup, about similar themes, its caught with its pants down in embarrassment.
Nice insights. Yeah, I've revised down my assessment of the film a bit, after rewatching it this month, though I still think it contains a lot to be excited about. I could do without the whiff of *Hostel* that shows up toward the end; also maybe the ice-rink scene. Ending on the dog from *Stalker* with him in the barren landscape would've been more effective (and more effectively heart-breaking) I think. ... And I haven't forgotten about that link you sent. Been sidetracked from being able to watch it from beginning to end online. Will get to it shortly, though, and send you a note when I've submitted the film. Cheers!
WOW. Just WOW. A surrealist, black & white, existential, mid-life crisis gone mad. It's actually quite restrained in many ways, getting darker and darker towards the end. The film follows one man, a middle level manager and his outward projected existential crisis in a series of revolving doors. Truly original stuff, it even has a stage except from Uncle Vanya. Great sound design too. 4.5 stars
It was a moment of bliss when the gracious, beautiful black dog that accompanied Stalker 30 years ago once again accompanied Tõnu here. It's like running into an old friend and considering the onthological context in both films, it may hardly be a coincidence. What a nice present this Eesti film is.
To follow up on the roundup for the first week of this year's London Film Festival, let's begin at the top of Mark Stafford and Pamela Jahn
Before rounding up a bit of what the critics are saying about the narrative features opening in theaters this weekend, let's note that