The first Estonian film ever to screen in the Sundance comptetition, The Temptation of St.Tony by Veiko Õunpuu launched to a controversial reception domestically and became an unexpected box office victim due to the crash of a cinema ceiling. But then, nothing less would be expected from a black-and-white film featuring naked jogging in the snow, dead dogs and bodily dismemberment mixed with Belle Epoque style cabaret performances.
The second feature by Õunpuu after his debut, The Autumn Ball, won the Venice Horizons Award in Venice in 2007, The Temptation of St. Tony is described by the director as his first serious attempt at art-house cinema, a surprising claim after the artsy ambience of his two first films based on books by the deceased Estonian writer Mati Unt.
St. Tony scored just 6,282 admissions on 3 prints in Estonia as its roll-out was botched by the crushing of a ceiling in a new multiplex where the film premiered, leaving the audience wondering about the safety of seeing the chef-d'oeuvre. The figure still landed it at number 2 among domestic releases in 2009, a somewhat sour commentary on the state of Estonia's cinema. The film went on to compete at Rotterdam International Film Festival as a sign of continuing critical confidence in Õunpuu.
The Temptation of St. Tony tells the story of an introverted middle level manager, played by Õunpuu regular Taavi Eelmaa, who is facing an ever increasing burden of emotional problems and finally cracks under them like "an '81 Ford Sierra." Õunpuu's script received the European Talent award for best script at Cannes in 2008.
The film was produceb by Homeles Bob Productions of Estonia (Katrin Kissa) on a modest 1 million EUR budget in co-production with Sweden's ATMO and Bronson Club of Finland.
Original title: Püha Tõnu kiusamine
Director: Veiko Õunpuu
Writer: Veiko Õunpuu
DoP: Mart Taniel
Art design: Markku Pätila (FIN), Jaagup Roomet
Original score: Ülo Krigul
Sound design: Janne Laine (FIN)
Editing: Thomas Lagerman (SWE)
Costume: Jaanus Orgusaar, Helen Ehandi, Aldo Järvsoo
Make-up: Kaire Hendrikson
Production manager: Kaido Kivitoa
Producers: Katrin Kissa, Homeless Bob Production
Co-producers: Kristina Aberg, ATMO (Sweden), Jesse Fryckman and Tero Kaukomaa, Bronson Club, (Finland).