Ostrov (The Island)
Posted 10 September 2006 - 11:41 AM
Art closely follows life in a new Russian film about a hermitic monk with a guilty past played by a 1980s Russian rock singer who shunned society after a religious transformation.
The White Sea provides the barren backdrop for director Pavel Lounguine's "Ostrov" ("The Island"), in which former rocker Pyotr Mamonov plays Anatoly, a man who shoots a comrade during World War Two and winds up living a hermit's existence near an isolated monastery burdened with the guilt of his past.
People come from all over the country to visit Anatoly the monk, who is a practical joker and a thorn in the side for his Orthodox brothers, yet still revered as a sage and visionary. . . .
Lounguine, who worked with Mamonov in his acclaimed debut picture "Taxi Blues" in 1990, insisted on Mamonov as the lead.
"Regardless of the fact that he is still connected to ... entertainment, the fate of this extraordinary man and his personal life-journey from show business to religion reflects the plot of the film," Lounguine said.
"The Island" premiered at the Venice Film Festival at the weekend, where it was showing out of competition. . . .
Reuters, September 10
Posted 16 September 2006 - 08:05 PM
My only complaint with the film is that the ending felt a little too neat and tidy, but other than that, I really liked the film (as did my wife). One thing I especially liked was the fact that Anatoly, although very pious and repentant, is something of a prankster, which injected some interesting humor into the film and lightened the mood. One of the best scenes in the film is where he locks his abbot in the monastery's furnace room and begins stoking all of the fires, scaring the poor man half to death... all to convict him of his worldliness. Indeed, many of the monk's quirky habits and pranks are intended to impart some spiritual wisdom to his "victims".
Also worth nothing is the film's treatment of the supernatural elements. As the film continues, it becomes rather clear that, in addition to being somewhat kooky, Anatoly also possesses some supernatural gifts. He prophesies, heals, and even participates in an exorcism. However, such phenomena is treated very simply and straightforwardly. There are no flashes of light, no swells of music, nothing that beats the viewer over the head and tells them that they need to be in awe because something big is happening. It's all matter-of-fact and downplayed, though things clearly happen. It reminded me of the little supernatural flourishes that take place in Diary Of A Country Priest, which aren't really flourishes at all.
I don't know much about Orthodox monastic rules, so I don't how authentic the film's depiction of the monastic lifestyle was, but it certainly seemed authentic to me.
Posted 22 January 2007 - 10:47 AM
Posted 05 February 2007 - 01:25 AM
A feature film about repentance - as embodied by a Russian Orthodox monk tormented by his wartime past - has swept top prizes at Russia's main film awards ceremony. "Ostrov," or "Island," took six Zolotoi Oryol, or Golden Eagle awards, including best film, director and actor at a ceremony on 27 January.
The film stars Pyotr Mamonov, a Soviet-era underground rock star who has become a devout Orthodox believer and now lives in an isolated village. It was directed by Pavel Lungin, previously most famous for "Taxi Blues", a perestroika-era film also starring Mamonov, and "Tycoon: A New Russian," a fictionalised take on the rise of Boris Berezovsky, a controversial magnate now living in British exile.
In his acceptance speech, compared by some Russian media to a sermon, Mamonov condemned his own popularity as idolatry and called on Russian women to stop having abortions. . . .
Ecumenical News International, February 1
Posted 07 April 2008 - 12:21 PM
The only other film I've seen that was as powerful spiritually in the same way as this was the staggering 1996 film "Breaking the Waves," which was about a different kind of holy fool, and is significantly less Orthodox (and orthodox) than "Ostrov" . . . Still, both films are invitations to consider how God intervenes in our lives via what Kierkegaard called "the teleological suspension of the ethical." The original holy fool must have been Abraham, taking his son Isaac for sacrifice at God's request. It is to my mind the most bizarre story in the Bible (which takes some doing, admittedly).
Posted 07 April 2008 - 01:09 PM
Posted 22 August 2008 - 12:07 PM
This should have been near the very top of the Critics' Choice AND the "Most Redeeming Films" lists at Christianity Today in 2006. I wish we'd been on top of it back then.
This film deserves the kind of attention and recommendation that we were lavishing upon Sophie Scholl: The Final Days. You should all bump this to the top of your Netflix queues. So much to enjoy, discuss, and recommend. We rarely enjoy films that take faith -- specifically Christian faith -- so seriously, with such interesting character development and such memorable environments. I laughed, I gasped, I was moved. I love this movie.
Edited by Overstreet, 30 August 2008 - 12:43 PM.
Posted 22 August 2008 - 03:58 PM
Likewise. I'm number 2 in the "holds" queue. This should provide some respite from the onslaught of sure-to-be vapid action movies I've been assigned over the next couple of weeks. Many are "opening cold." They're gonna be great.
EDIT: Hey, this is part of the Film Movement series. Jeffrey, aren't you a subscriber? I didn't get your earlier note about not choosing this DVD at the video store. Isn't it sent to you directly? I'm not sure how the subscription service works, although I've seen several Film Movement titles that I've enjoyed.
Edited by Christian, 22 August 2008 - 04:00 PM.
Posted 23 August 2008 - 08:32 PM
BTW, when did this film come out on DVD in North America? That might affect its eligibility for CT Movies purposes. (The copy I borrowed way back when was a Russian import.)
Posted 23 August 2008 - 11:57 PM
I got it from Netflix.
Lucky for me, I befriended the president of the company this week, and he just sent me a gift pack... so now I have two copies in the house, one from Netflix, and one I get to keep!
I can't give up any details right now, but FilmMovement has something *very* special in the works... You'd be smart to subscribe now.
Posted 24 August 2008 - 07:46 PM
Posted 26 August 2008 - 12:04 AM
Posted 28 August 2008 - 06:15 PM
Lungin has repeatedly denied that the church ordered the film or helped to finance it, although he received funding from the government-owned television channel Rossiya. The budget for the film was about $2 million.
"It was just as surprising to me that the church accepted this film," Lungin said, smoking zealously in his apartment near the Moscow River on the quiet end of Novy Arbat, a busy street in central Moscow. "I thought they would have problems with something, at least in the details." Instead, some bishops organized events around the film and advertised it in their churches.
Lungin said he believes in God but does not follow any structured religion. He seems more interested in the exploration and rejection of the values of the past 20 years, and he expresses deep disappointment in the post-perestroika era.
"The material world hasn't given us any answers to our questions," he said. "People feel lost in a spiritual way. . . . There are these feelings of guilt and sin and at the same time an idea that people can be redeemed."
International critics wrote that the film was reminiscent of "The Return," a dark meditation released in 2003 that won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. The rise of smaller, more artistic films suggests to some that Russian filmmaking has an artistic as well as commercial future.