For those of you not familiar, The Temptation of St Tony is an Estonian film based on the concept of the Temptation of St Anthony which is a popular topic in renaissance painting. The source material is about a good man who’s constantly tempted by evil, and the film is a very visual, symbolic take on it with Bergmanesque cinematography.
In the film, a good man is surrounded by violence, decadence and hedonism, and he fights to stay pure and good. At one point, he goes to see a priest who says he shouldn’t try so hard and should just blend in with everyone else, and that priest turns out to be the devil. Every time he tries to do good, it leads to horrible consequences for himself and the people he was trying to help. The protagonist plays the role on multiple occasions of the protagonist in Western films who tries to make the world better and wins the antagonist over by the sheer force of his goodwill, only the antagonist is not won over, and ridicules him.
The film raises what I consider the most interesting question in Judeo-Christian faiths. “Why should I be good if everybody else is evil, and will take advantage of my goodness?” It portrays the world as hateful, predatory, and uncaring, and comes out as a caricature of things observable in reality. I’m not sure if it’s what’s intended, but to me it also raises the question, is ‘passive piety’ the best way to help the most people? This is the same question Harvey Keitel raises in Bad Lieutenant, ‘Do you have the right to forgive him?’ Is something that intuitively seems like a good deed really a good deed if it has predictable negative consequences for innocent people?
Other films take a side on this issue, for instance, Of Gods And Men comes heavily on the positive side. What other films address this issue, and what is your take on it?
I have a drawing of that image as my screensaver.
You should post a spoiler alert.. I’ll check it out.
Is it really the kind of film that can be spoiled? The title kind of tells the dilemma of the main character, and it’s not the kind of ‘Twist’ film like Memento or something that can be seriously spoiled. Describing scenes in this sort of movie doesn’t affect the impact of watching them.
Well, SPOILER ALERT I guess, for those who like to go into a film knowing absolutely nothing.
This is the image.
why would you have this image as your screen saver?
I see that painting as a metaphor for life.
It looks more like a print than a painting.
Yeah, it’s Martin Schongauer.
Printmaking is so badass. The demons in this print seem so accurate: like that’s how a demon would look like. Not a red little guy with a pitchfork and gotee but kind of these clawing dragon monsters.
Yeah, Schongauer was brilliant and probably the preeminent engraver of his time. Very powerful stuff . . . but I think coming into contact with it everyday as a screensaver or wallpaper or whatever would give me nightmares.
St. Tony is just like: ‘Whateves. Typical Thursday afternoon.’
I love the single tear rolling down from his left eye.
It has been a couple months, so I can’t remember some of the scenes. But, what really struck me was the shear absurdity of the black comedy in this film. It was marvelous. I would say that instead of being a good man, Tony is an oblivious man. Perhaps he most fits the role of bumbling idealistic religious fool.
I agree with that assessment, but wouldn’t you say he’s similar to the protagonist in, say, Pretty Woman? Or a lot of childrens’ films and anime, such as Princess Mononoke? The sort of films where the antagonist is moved and won over eventually.
Here is the painting by Michelagelo, some say it was his first painting.
St. Tony is just like: ‘Whateves. Typical Thursday afternoon.’
Thats why I like it. If you notice St. Anthony is almost ignoring the daemons. The daemons are trying to bring him down but they can’t.
“…think coming into contact with it everyday as a screensaver or wallpaper or whatever would give me nightmares.”
LOL. Everyday people give me nightmares.
" LOL. Everyday people give me nightmares. "
I just saw this. As Jirin mentioned, this is visually-oriented film and I’d guess the fans of formalist filmmaking would like this. I like this aspect of the film. However, I’m pretty confused about it. In a way, it reminds me of Roy Andersson’s Songs From a Second Floor—the performance art, black humor vignettes. (I also didn’t quite understand everything in that film.) It also felt like a comedy that Bela Tarr would make.
Anyway, I really think this is a film that requires some interpretation. The film moves from dream to reality, and I think you have to sort those things out. Some of the scenes feel like performance art pieces, and these also beg to be interpreted.
Nick said, But, what really struck me was the shear absurdity of the black comedy in this film. It was marvelous. I would say that instead of being a good man, Tony is an oblivious man. Perhaps he most fits the role of bumbling idealistic religious fool.
Yeah, I basically see the film in a similar way.
Actually, after seeing the film, I thought the film targeted and condemned Tony. In some ways, he’s decent, but his decency to some degree is a bit of a farce. For example, in the opening scene, the car flies into the beach and the people in the procession completely ignore the event. One of the bloody survivors eventually makes his way to the church and asks Tony to sit in Tony’s swanky car. Tony obliges—but his kindness is absurd given that the man is seriously injured and Tony (and the others) completely ignore this. Another scene occurs when Tony is about to make-out with the daughter of the man Tony just fired. (The man starts screaming, “He fired me and is about to fuck my daughter,” or something to that effect. In retrospect, it’s pretty funny.) Tony isn’t just oblivious, but you could argue he’s totally insensitive and heartless—with little difference from someone who more overtly cruel.
Now, the netflix synopsis says that Tony strikes a dangerous bargain with a mysterious figure. Can anyone tell me when this happened?
Other questions and comments:
>There’s a scene where we see Tony running, with what looks like a broken clothes hanger. He’s in a running suit and it looks like it’s splattered with something (blood?). What was going on here?
>Any comments about the black dog and it’s significance? Tony bangs and kills the dog initially and tries to bury it. The dog reappears later (I can’t remember when) and Tony takes the dog home. Later, after Tony escapes from being eaten(?), he runs home, finds the dead dog and then he takes the dog out in the snow. What was that all about?
>Were people being eaten? And what does this signify? Who was the Herr Meister character? Who was that Asian woman in the flowing clothes?
The film raises what I consider the most interesting question in Judeo-Christian faiths. “Why should I be good if everybody else is evil, and will take advantage of my goodness?”
I didn’t read the film in this way (although I could be totally wrong). The best guess I have is that the film is a critique of the corporations—maybe the individuals within who are clueless and indifference to the immoral practices of the corporations. This is just a gut feeling, and I don’t put a lot of stock into this.