Well, I got in the mail today, my copy of Ostrov (The Island) (link is official movie site in Russian only; the IMDb link is here; and you can order it from Amazon here, but ensure that you are ordering the NTSC version). The movie is only in Russian, but the distributor included a very helpful guide to setting up the English subtitles (for dialogue only).
This movie is absolutely phenomenal. Our beloved deacon purchased a copy and a handful of the parish men saw it a bit more than a week ago. I’ve seen it a couple of times and will watch it again tonight, very likely. The cinematography and musical score are incredible. Everything is very very simple and austere, and yet incredibly beautiful.
It is a fictional tale, but is definitely built on the Orthodox tradition of the holy fool, on the life of repentance and prayer, on humility and suffering. I know nothing about the director or the lead actor (Pyotr Mamanov), let alone of the scriptwriter, but somehow this team captured quite well a truly Orthodox picture of life. (Disclaimer: I’ve only been Orthodox for a few months, so the evaluation is only as good as that.)
The beauty and goodness of the movie so captivates one that one is moved to centering one’s life around simple repentance and prayer. The movie starts with the main character praying the Jesus prayer, and cuts away as he lies face down in the frozen moss, continually reciting the prayer. The movie ends with his blessed and holy, and understated, death, and his fellow monks rowing his body to the very place where the movie starts–and the place where he faces the climactic battle against the devil.
As my blog readers know, I have wrestled so much with the move from head to heart–and still do; I’m so unstable. This movie has helped me immensely by providing fuel for my imagination. As a metaphor, it pictures for me that toward which I must strive: simple and humble holiness of life, infused and suffused with prayer and repentance.
I cannot highly enough recommend that everyone see this movie, and, if possible, acquire it for your own use.