Ostrov (Russian: Остров, The Island) is a 2006 Russian biographical film about a fictional 20th century Eastern Orthodox monk. The film closed the 2006 Venice Film Festival, proved to be a moderate box-office success and won both the Nika Award and the Golden Eagle Award as the Best Russian film of 2006. The filming location was the city of Kem, in Karelia, on the shores of the White Sea. Contents
During World War II, the sailor Anatoly and his captain, Tikhon, are captured by the Nazis when they board their barge and tugboat which is carrying a shipment of coal. The Nazi officer leading the raid offers Anatoly the choice to shoot Tikhon and stay alive which Anatoly reluctantly takes, and Tikhon falls overboard. The Nazis blow up the ship but Anatoly is found by Russian Orthodox monks on the shore the next morning. He survives and becomes a stoker at the monastery but is perpetually overcome with guilt.
Thirty years pass. Anatoly now has the gift of clairvoyance and healing. But the other monks do not really understand him. People come to see Anatoly for cures and guidance, but even now, he remains in a perpetual state of repentance. He often gets in a boat and goes to an uninhabited island where he prays for mercy and forgiveness.
A prominent admiral arrives to see Anatoly with his daughter. The daughter is possessed by demons but Anatoly exorcises them. The admiral turns out to be Tikhon. It is revealed that Anatoly only wounded him during the war. Tikhon forgives Anatoly.
Anatoly announces a death by Wednesday; the monks provide a coffin. Dressed in a white garment such as Jesus wore, he lies in the coffin, wearing a crucifix. Monks, one carrying a large cross representing the risen Christ, are seen rowing the coffin away from the island.
The film is focused on father Anatoly's repentance of his sin (therefore the virtually continuous occurrence of the Jesus Prayer); but the transgressions of the depicted character (a fool for Christ) and their impact on the others are the means by which the actual plot develops. The film's director Pavel Lungin, speaking of the central character's self-awareness, said he doesn't regard him as being clever or spiritual, but blessed "in the sense that he is an exposed nerve, which connects to the pains of this world. His absolute power is a reaction to the pain of those people who come to it;" while "typically, when the miracle happens, the lay people asking for a miracle are always dissatisfied" because "the world does not tolerate domestic miracles."
Screenwriter Dmitry Sobolev further explains: "When people ask for something from God, he is often wrong because God has a better understanding of what a person wants at that moment." Pyotr Mamonov, who plays the lead character, formerly one of the few rock musicians in the USSR, converted to Eastern Orthodoxy in the 1990s and lives now in an isolated village. Pavel Lungin said about him that "to a large extent, he played himself." Mamonov received a blessing from his confessor for playing the character.
The simplicity, the humbleness, the remoteness, the miracles converge into creating a timeless snapshot of Orthodox spirituality, apart from the historical circumstances. The Patriarch of Moscow, Alexei II, praised Ostrov for its profound depiction of faith and monastic life, calling it a "vivid example of an effort to take a Christian approach to culture."