As usual, I’m behind the times.  Most people have already seen the foreign film, Ostrov.  I had the opportunity to view it Friday night at St. Nicholas Greek Church in the next town over.  The ladies group was hosting it and the priest was going to lead a short discussion afterwards.  I decided to chug on over to see what the chatter was all about.  I’m glad I did!

What an excellent movie!  I’m not into foreign films but this one captured my interest from the opening music. 

The main character, Fr. Anatoly, spends the remainder of his life in a Russian monastery after having killed his captain at the command of a Nazi officer, who then ordered the coal barge that Fr. Anatoly was on to be blown up. 

Fr. Anatoly  job at the monastery was to tend the coal stove, the same as what he did on the barge.   Everyday,  multiple times a day, he trudged to the coal pile with his small rickety wheelbarrow, filled it and wheeled it back to the coal storage room where the stove way.

This room was the same place he slept.  The coal pile was his bed.  His knit cap and hand, his only pillow.  His cover?  It was his cloak.  Year in and year out. 

The other monastics, even the superior, did not understand Fr. Anatoly.  They did not understand his attitude, his jokes, his trips to the island where he wandered or sat or lay in the snow weeping and lamenting over his many sins.

There was a lot of symbolism in the movie.  The one that struck me the most was the fact that Fr. Anatoly slept in the coal room, on a coal heap, next to a roaring hot coal stove.  He literally slept in hell, praying for God’s forgiveness, and repenting of his sins. 

He knew the day he would die and one of the monastics, Fr. Job,  had Fr. Anatoly’s coffin made for him.  Though Fr. Anatoly wanted only to be buried in the storage box on his porch, he accepted the gift because he recognized that it was born out of the monastic’s desire to be like him and love.  So he put on his white baptismal gown, hung his cross around his neck, climbed into the coffin and laid down. 

Fr. Job asked him if he was afraid.  Fr. Anatoly responded, “No, I am not afraid of death.  I am afraid of the dread judgment seat of Christ.”  (Or close to that.)

All of Fr. Anatoly’s life was lived in preparation for that eternity.

And so should mine. 


7 thoughts on “Ostrov

  1. Egg on face! You see what happens when you don’t check your names!

    Meg does have a good point, Hollywood saw nothing in a film that pricked the conscience of a nation. It means that Western culture and Orthodox culture, despite outward similarities, are entirely different (as was eloquently pointed out by Sergei Solovyov in the 19th century).

    Therefore, when converts come into the Church, a whole new world must replace the false Western standards. This takes time. I would say that no convert is ready to say even the most basic things about the Faith until five years have passed. Unfortunately, today there are many (especially in the AOCANA) who have been encouraged to speak and write whilst still neophytes and novices. This is DEATH to the spirtual life, and may permanently impede one’s path in Christ (such is the belief of my staritsa, and she is a spiritual daughter of the great eldress Varvara of Pyukhtitsa).

  2. That was actually Pyotr Mamonov, who used to be a rock star in Soviet times, then became an Orthodox Christian and now only does Orthodox music, and, obviously, films. Yes, the number of awards won was interesting, as was (to me) the fact that Hollywood saw *nothing* noteworthy in this film. Which should be enough to recommend it! 😉

    One of my faves, too, though I would hesitate to recommend it to anyone who doesn’t know at least *something* about Orthodox spirituality — otherwise, Fr. Anatoly, whom we all recognize as a Fool for Christ, just comes across as a nut.

  3. By the way, Pavel Lungin, the director of the film, and Pavel Mamonov, who played Starets Anatoly, both received awards from Patriarch Aleksei. “Ostrov” also swept the Golden Eagles, the Russian equivalent of the Oscars. It was a centrepiece of the Venice Film Festival and the Golden Knights Orthodox FIlm Fetival run by the actor/director Nikolai Burliaev.

    If that was not all, it had one of the largest boxoffices in 2006, and over half the population watched it on TV when it was broadcast on Orthodox Christmas 2007. Whew!

    Pavel Lungin’s next effort is to be a film biography of Tsar Ivan Grozny.


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