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An innocent young man witnesses violence breaks out after an isolated village is inflamed by the arrival of a circus and its peculiar attractions, a giant whale and a mysterious man named "The Prince".
Tõnu (Tony) works under the thumb of an Estonian industrialist with the bearing and manner of an ape, and comes off as a curly-haired space cadet accountant. This film, in which he plays the central character, is a rather blatant anti-capitalist farce. There are overt references to Buñuel's Viridiana (a glorious updated tramp's banquet), and on consumption and the commodification of sexuality, to Pasolini.
The style overall though one might suggest is closer to Roy Andersson, with black humour drawing frequent guffaws from the audience, characters stewing in an oblivion of self-absorption, and Christian religious themes. Perhaps the humour is even self-reflexive, at one point Tõnu sits in a vast auditorium watching a drab staging of Chekhov's Uncle Vanya. A speech from Astroff is the most important, 'The peasants are all alike; they are stupid and live in dirt, and the educated people are hard to get along with. One gets tired of them. All our good friends are petty and shallow and see no farther than their own noses; in one word, they are dull. Those that have brains are hysterical, devoured with a mania for self-analysis. They whine, they hate, they pick faults everywhere with unhealthy sharpness. They sneak up to me sideways, look at me out of a corner of the eye, and say: "That man is a lunatic," "That man is a wind-bag." Or, if they don't know what else to label me with, they say I am strange.' The audience watching the play one feels are learning nothing from the lesson presented, and perhaps the audience watching the audience nothing either.
I'm not convinced either Õunpuu or Chekhov show people as being able to change. Tõnu worries about minutiae, for example whether a bleeding man will ruin the white leather seats of his trophy car, too concerned with liability and what he might lose to move, stuck in a bourgeois straitjacket. When did doing good become so hard?
Just to warn you that there are scenes of nastiness in the movie that may have stopped me watching the movie if I had known about them. They are generally to do with cannibalism.
My favourite scene may be the slow track in the dilapidated church, plaster peeled, frescoes gone, worshippers gone. I think that probably about sums the malaise up.
Subtlety and craft are occasionally lacking, but after the film I felt I was more humanised and so I give it top marks. Walked out feeling incredibly spooked.
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