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4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
The Island aka Ostrov [DVD] [2006]
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on 30 June 2017
He's a staretz (elder) and so people come to him for advice; and he has, moreover, as some of these guides are said to have, "clear sight". But he's also a urodivoi (a fool for Christ). He feels himself unworthy of these roles, because he's carrying a heavy burden of guilt. (And this guilt and its resolution is the subject of the film.)

In the East they take texts very seriously and the notion of the Holy Fool comes from 1 Corinthians 4:10:

"We are fools for Christ's sake ..."

The closest parallel in the West would be St. Francis. But don't, I think, look for ethnographic parallels: you're not going to find them. Many traditional societies did regard madness as betokening the divine. But that's the other way round: the Holy Fool is *not* mad, though he may pose as a madman. (Apparently, women often saw through the pose, which is interesting.) And while he appears to invert societal values, as is also known in the ethnographic record, this is not some merely ritual inversion, as with Apache on the warpath, for example, let alone a blasphemous one (as is also known). The point is that the Gospel does invert worldly values. (See St. Matthew 5-7, for example.)

The urodivoi takes all this all really seriously and what his role amounts to is a holding up of a mirror to society to prompt the recognition in people that, actually, they do not live in this way. He may also deliberately court condemnation from others, presumably as a way of reminding them, if they can see through the pose, "judge not ..."

And he may also play practical jokes on people - but jokes that have a message - and that's also something seen in this film. (I suppose this would be a spiritually dangerous role for anyone who was not himself truly humble.)
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on 1 July 2017
It would not work on my equipment so have returned it.
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on 12 April 2017
Possibly my favourite film of all and deeply moving , I have watched it many times
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on 1 May 2011
This film was a wonderful surprise, I did not expect it to be so profound. It started out very bleak, and it continued to be very 'bleak' but somehow a deeply human situation was emerging. The actor playing Father Anatoly gives a deep insight into Faith and Salvation. This film is an antidote to Hollywood, so if you like superficial action, materialism and violence don't buy this film, as you will not last more than five minutes.

It is one of the best films I have ever seen,it reminded me of my father who was a bit like Father Anatoly.
I can not recommend it highly enough, however, it may not be everyones cup of tea but once you get into it, it is well worth the effort.
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on 25 April 2012
Somehow, Father Anatoly, (born again Christian ex rock star Pyotr Mamanov) a rather unorthodox Orthodox monk who lives on the titular Russian Baltic island, is very much his own island.

Anti-social, dirty, and a prankster that both annoys and causes discomfort to his fellow monks, Anatoly is a troubled old man who is harbouring a soul-destroying act that he was forced to commit, over forty years previous.

Strangely, this unkempt and rather obnoxious figure seems to hold healing powers that his superiors do not understand or particularly approve of. A string of characters visit the almost impossible to reach monastery and they target Father Anatoly, who is dressed in rags and not in the Orthodox robes of the others.

This film reminded me so much of the excellent south Korean film 'Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter....Spring', which in some ways is unfortunate for The Island as I am comparing it against the former. That's why I'm awarding 4 stars, not five. Whilst hauntingly beautiful throughout, with its poetically arctic landscapes, it lacks the subtlety and ultimate tenderness that would really make it special. The comical moments are just a little clumsy and some of the miraculous undertakings are a little beyond credibility.

Spiritually, the ending is glorious and special, with the silent soundtrack before rousing to a joyous climax.

I rented this DVD from my local library, showing how diverse and useful their collections can be. Try them!
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on 21 September 2010
The island is a journey into redemption, a pilgrim's progress towards purifying the being and spirit. Father Anatoly carries a great deal of guilt which appears to be indelibly branded on to his conscience and soul. He seeks redemption in whatever ways he can - healing people, challenging the liturgy and challenging the father superior of the church - these are not without really very funny consequences. He continues to live in a world of maddening guilt. His attempts at redemption and forgiveness prove almost futile.

It is a beautifully photographed and atmospheric film, most of the time it is filmed in steely blue tones. There is an understated humour which provides hilarious comic relief. Wonderfully scripted, directed and acted.

A lovely, powerful and moving film!
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I have long had a fascination with Russia, a country that has had more than its fair share of suffering. It is also a country that has produced fine novelists, composers and artists over the years, as if off a huge production line. But such artistry and talent could often lead to the Gulags during the communist era, where being part of the intelligentsia was looked upon with suspicion. But the arrival of perestroika has allowed men like Pavel Lounquine the freedom to make fine films like "The Island", which would have been inconceivable before this time when religion suffered repression. But now society is more open and people have been able to turn back to the church. Time can be a great healer, and past sins can be erased and even forgiven in the new Russia.

The film commences in the northern seas of Russia during World War Two, when two men are captured transporting coal by the Germans. One of the men desperate to survive shoots the other in order to survive. Following an explosion he is rescued by monks from a nearby monastery situated on a desolate island nearby. There he becomes a monk who is haunted by the memory of his act, and continually prays for the soul of the dead man and forgiveness for himself. He works in the boiler room of the monastery constantly hauling coal. His eccentric and erratic behaviour causes consternation amongst his brothers, but they recognise his gifts of healing and clairvoyancy. Thirty years after the war he is an ill man, but life has a final twist before he is due to meet his maker.

The lead actor Pyotr Mamonov was a rock musician in the USSR before converting to the Russian orthodox church in the 1990's. He now lives on an island much like the character he plays in the film. No wonder he is able to give such a virtuoso performance, as he simply plays himself. The character is based on a "Holy Fool", like St Francis of Assisi. Someone with a crazy sort of wisdom. The film is shot in beautiful monochrome colours, which together with the desolate scenery gives the film a magnificent look of austerity. There are shots of stunted shrubs and lichen covered rocks. The landscape is covered in ice and snow that appears of Arctic intensity. I was reminded of medieval monks who sought closeness to God in solitude, when they inhabited remote islands like the Skelligs off the coast of Ireland. Such harshness and appearance of austere poverty make the movie very Russian in character.

The film swept the Russian oscars winning 5 Nika awards including best film, and I can easily see why. It is genuinely touching at times, especially in the relationships between the monks who have a genuine love of their eccentric brother. My favourite scene is where the eccentric brother burns the boots and blanket of a fellow brother, who covets these possessions, which brings an unsuspected warmth between the two. The director himself said that he wished to show that there is a God, and that we are not alone in the world. Through the central character he has achieved this aim. The film posseses a haunting beauty the like of which I cannot recall, and tells a story of faith and redemption that tugs at the heart. It is in short a fine achievement!
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on 21 November 2010
As a sometime student and practioner of Orthodox spirituality I found this film to be a delight - it starts with the words of the Jesus Prayer "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have Mercy on Me a Sinner" and tells the story of a monk in a remote monastary in Northern Russia. Is he a prophet, a healer, a saint or a madman? There is an interesting sub-plot of the monk's experiences in the Second World War and, impliedly, of the monastary's relationship with soviet Russia.

The Island feels like a prayer in film form - and that is meant as a compliment.
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on 16 July 2012
Right from the start this film has you hooked. It has mystery, humour, emotion, twists and turns. Apart from simply enjoying the film, you'll get some spiritual insight into the ways of Orthodox Christianity. Throughout the film it highlights the inherent flaws we all have within us. This is shown in the way Fr. Anatoly interacts with his brothers at the monastery and the steady flow of people coming to see the Holy Man for answers to their problems. Each and every problem he solves is done a way that catches the viewer completely by surprise. Again I stress that this is not only entertaining, but very helpful in understanding spiritual matters. Woven in to the storyline is Fr Anatoly's personal struggle with an event that happened in his early years.

Entertaining and educational. I would highly recommend watching The Island.
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on 6 March 2013
One of my all-time favourite movies (though admittedly I am Orthodox!). It shows monks as neither impossibly saintly nor as corrupt and greedy but as normal people with failings who are sincerely trying to work out their salvation. It is a story of repentance and ultimate redemption despite our failings - 'our' because this applies to lay people as much as to monastics. I particularly enjoyed the scene in which Fr Anatoly shows the abbot - by most standards a holy man - that he is still in the grip of pride.

I am a little concerned at the freedom allowed to Fr Anatoly to receive lay people, particularly women, alone in his 'cell', though there is a precedent in St Seraphim of Sarov, but the overall 'feel' of the film is one of the triumph of Christ and of simple, uncomplicated faith.
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