Not quite a monastery, more a handful of crumbling buildings and a bell tower, this retreat on an island in the Baltic is home to Father Anatoly (Pyotr Mamonov), a seemingly unofficial Orthodox monk said to possess mysterious healing powers. He’s certainly a man of contradictions – riddling prankster one minute, fervent worshipper the next – whose devotion is partly explained by the opening World War II flashback showing Nazi invaders forcing him into killing a comrade. What follows is a contemplative fable, not without its wry wit, which effectively ponders the workings of faith, specifically the connection between gnawing guilt and a desire to do good – the austerely beautiful surroundings (think ECM album covers) providing a strikingly appropriate context. Haunting cinematography and Mamonov’s persuasive central performance almost seal the deal, yet there’s something just too pat about the storytelling which prevents total surrender.
Friday February 5 2010
Cast and crew