The Island Review

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A monk in a remote monastery in Northern Russia, is trying to handle his own spiritual journey when outsiders start to attribute healing and holy powers to him.


Opening with a monochrome wartime prologue, Pavel Lungin aims for Tarkovsky-like artistry as he follows a lost soul’s passage through guilt, atonement and redemption. Monk Pyotr Mamonov prepares himself for the Inferno by maintaining the remote local community’s coal-fired boiler. His hermitic existence is compromised by a visit from admiral Yuri Kuznetsov and his daughter, Viktoria Isakova.

Exceptionally photographed to contrast the forbidding White Sea landscape with Mamonov’s craggy persona, this is a compelling study of the clash between individual faith and institutionalised religion that also serves as a parable on the abuse of power in both the Soviet and democratic eras.

Stunning to look at and ambitious in its symbolic rendering of the subject.