Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Island (Ostrov) (2006)

Pavel Lungin's mystical film about, guilt, belief, god and the need to be forgiven.

The film concerns Father Anatoli, a monk at a far off monastary. During the Second World War he had been forced to shoot and kill a friend by the Germans in ordersave his own life. Thrown into the ocean he washes ashore at the monastery where he becomes a monk with a reputation for miracles, and unfortunate practical jokes. 30 years on the monks still don't know what to make of the strange man who lives among them.

I picked this film up from an Amazon e-seller because when I read the description of strange things going on at a monastary it sounded interesting. Actually the decription made it sound more like a mystery and a thriller rather than what it is, a drama about looking for redemption. I don't think I would have expected what I got even if I had read proper description because there is something about the film that is impossible to describe.

First off there is a wicked sense of humor that runs through the film. Partly through the jokes played by our hero, but also from the characters interacting and trying to deal with what is going on. This isn't to say that the film is an out right comedy, its not rather there is a simply a vein of the humor of life running through it. The humor is mostly from the absurd moments that happen to us all.

The film is also very much about humanity. The film cares for everyone and Anatoli's antics makes it clear that God cares for us as well, even if he moves in ways that are not always readily apparent. The head of the monastary moves in with Anatoli after a fire, and what happens to him is not what he expected in his wildest dreams.

One of my few reservations while I was watching the film was that we never really know if what Father Anatoli is saying and doing is really messages from God. There is no proof, people come and go, things happen , but we don't see absolute proof. I got over it by reminding myself that if he wasn't some hoe inspired people wouldn't have kept going to him. Actually it wasn't until I was well done with the film that it occurred to me that we don't need to know if the advice and visions are real, that's not the point of the film. When I realized that I liked the film more. It was at that point the film clicked with me.

I like that the film challenged my expectations. First the film wasn't the way it was described and then it didn't behave as I thought it should. There is something special about a film that completely knocks you off your feet. Seeing the film was a little like seeing Father Anatoli, a long journey to place where we are going hoping to find enlightment, but instead of the wisdom we expect we find something else more valuable instead.

Track the film down and give it a try. It will be worth the effort.

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