Estonian movie “Melchior the Apothecary” premieres in the US, Japan, Indonesia

The saga of the apothecary Melchior that has gathered the most viewers in Estonian cinemas this year, was selected for the programme of three international film festivals in the US, Japan and Indonesia.

“Melchior the Apothecary” will have its North American premiere on 16 October at the Screamfest Film Festival at the Hollywood Chinese Theatre in downtown Los Angeles.

From 13-16 October, “Melchior the Apothecary” will be shown in Jakarta, the Indonesian capital, as part of the Jakarta Film Week festival.

In November, the movie will premiere in Japan at the Kyoto Historica International Film Festival.

The trilogy, all released this year, is based on the seven-novel series about Melchior the apothecary by Estonian author Indrek Hargla. For many years, the novel series has topped book sales charts in Estonia and has been published in seven languages including Estonian, Finnish, French, Hungarian, Latvian, German and English.

The story takes place in medieval Tallinn, where Melchior the apothecary is investigating the murder of a famous knight who has driven pirates from the Baltic Sea. Melchior is believed to be able to converse with the dead; he soon discovers the victim was hunting a mysterious “Tallinn prisoner” whose trail leads to the local Dominican monastery. A series of gruesome murders follows, putting anyone who gets a sniff of this mystery in mortal danger. At the same time, the apothecary grows increasingly suspicious of his own apprentice, who seems to be hiding something.

Still from Melchior.

The most-watched domestic films in 2022

Screenwriters Indrek Hargla, Elmo Nüganen and Olle Mirme weave together events and characters from the book series with exciting new plot twists devised specifically for the films. The movie was directed by Estonian stage and film director Elmo Nüganen, and produced by Taska Film (Estonia), Maze Productions (Germany), Film Angels Productions (Latvia) and InScript (Lithuania).

“In these frantic and restless times, follow the imagination of Indrek Hargla and the adventures of Melchior the apothecary if you want to slow down and explore Tallinn during its golden age,” Nüganen said in a statement ahead of the film’s premiere.

Released in cinemas this past April, the first part of the adventure trilogy, “Melchior the Apothecary”, became the most watched domestic film of the year, with ticket sales exceeding 130,000. The second part of the trilogy, “Melchior the Apothecary. Ghost” – which premiered in August 2022 – has been watched by more than 70,000 people to date.

The third film, “Melchior the Apothecary. The Executioner’s Daughter”, will launch in cinemas on 14 October, making this trilogy the first in Estonia’s cinematic history to be released in one year.

Worldwide distribution

The producers of the trilogy have now inked an international sales representation agreement with Global Screen, the worldwide distribution arm of Telepool, a Munich, Germany-based film and TV distribution and production company with more than 50 years of experience. Telepool is owned by Will and Jada Pinkett Smith’s Westbrook Inc.

“We were encouraged by the response from the Estonian audience and the strong interest in ‘Melchior the Apothecary’, which is confirmed by the box office performance,” Global Screen’s vice president for international acquisitions and co-production, Ulrike Schröder, said in a statement.

“The trilogy is truly gripping, full of mystery, adventure and tension. The value of [the] films is increased by the fact that the mystical and sometimes otherworldly essence of medieval life appears on the widescreen. We are convinced that films about Melchior will continue to be successful – in Estonia and many other countries,” she added.

Still from Melchior; photo by Robert Lang.

Estonia’s very own Sherlock Holmes

One of the trilogy’s producers, Esko Rips, said the filmmakers’ ambitions were never limited to the domestic market. He hopes that Melchior will become an important export item for Estonia, which could pique worldwide interest in local culture and Old Tallinn.

“The apothecary detective Melchior could become our very own Sherlock Holmes, an exciting and positive brand that appeals to an international audience. Visiting the filming locations of films and series is rapidly gaining popularity as a tourism branch. For example, hundreds of thousands of ‘Game of Thrones’ fans come to Dubrovnik every year to experience the atmosphere familiar to them from the series. These tourists bring millions of euros to Croatia,” Rips said in a statement.

Still from Melchior; photo by Robert Lang.

The “Melchior” trilogy was filmed in several locations across Tallinn and Harju County, Narva and Purtse in Ida-Viru County, Haljala and Vao in Lääne-Viru County as well as on Saaremaa island and in Latvia, capturing the unique atmosphere of medieval Tallinn.

According to another producer of the franchise, Tanel Tatter, an agreement has also been signed with the Amazon streaming platform, which will release a mini-series based on all three parts of the trilogy for German-speaking markets in 2023.

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