Monday, April 18, 2011

Ostrov (The Island)

At first glance, Ostrov fits into the same category as Stellet Licht and Lake Tahoe: slow, artsy, subtitled, sort of dull.  OK, so Ostrov is a little of all of that, but there is a lot more to it than the other two.  If you have patience for it, you can glean a solid message of forgiveness and faithfulness here.  The monk Father Anatoli lives at a remote Russian Orthodox monastery where he tends the coal fires.  Taking monastic austerity to its extreme, he makes the coal bin his cell.  He has gained a reputation as a seer and healer; lay people come from around the area for his wisdom and healing touch.  Among the monks, he is a prankster and gadfly, drawing the ire of the other fathers.
In spite of the peace he can bring to others, Father Anatoli struggles with his own sin.  Years ago, as a young sailor, he was given a choice by his Nazi captors to kill his commanding officer and preserve his own life.  He shot the officer, was rescued by the monks, and has spent decades repenting and trying to atone for his sin.  I will uncharacteristically not tell you how or if he gains his peace.  It's worth watching to see for yourself.

This is a dark movie, literally.  Everything is gray and cold.  The sets and story are simple, befitting a remote monastery.  But the story and spiritual message stand out all the more against the gray background.

Bottom line: 3 stars.

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