Island, The (Ostrov) (tbc)

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The ViewWellington Review

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Review byMatthew Turner4/02/2010

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 110 mins

Absorbing, beautifully shot and superbly acted Russian drama that recalls the work of Andrei Tarkovsky.

What's it all about?
Directed by Pavel Lounguine, The Island opens with a flashback to 1942 when young shipmate Anatoly (Timofey Tribuntsov) arrives on a remote island and is promptly captured by the Nazis and forced to shoot his super-cool captain, Tikhon (Alexey Zelensky). 34 years later, Anatoly (now played by Pyotr Mamonov) has become an eccentric monk who lives in a nearby monastery but still visits the island to pray.

Consumed with guilt, Anatoly lives apart from the other monks, causing Father Superior Filaret (Viktor Sukhorukov) to grow concerned about his health. Meanwhile, pilgrims travel from all over Russia to visit Anatoly, believing him to have special healing powers and the ability to see the future.

The Good
Pyotr Mamonov (a rock musician-turned-religious figure who's something of a cult figure in Russia) is terrific as Anatoly, delivering a performance that's constantly full of surprises, whether it's an impromptu chicken impression (that nonetheless seems to persuade a young woman that she should submit to an exorcism), pretending to be someone else and having conversations with himself for the benefit of his listening pilgrims or randomly burning Father Filaret's boots when he comes to visit.

This is a strangely absorbing film, not least because you’re never quite sure how to take Anatoly's various pronouncements – for example, when a widow comes to him saying that she's dreamed of her husband, he immediately tells her to sell all her worldly possessions and move to France because her husband is still alive and living there.

The Great
The film is also beautifully shot, courtesy of striking cinematography by Andrei Zhegalov that makes the most of the austere, snow-covered landscapes. The spiritual theme of the film and the stark photography have led to comparisons with the work of Andrei Tarkovsky that are more or less justified, even if the emotional climax does seem a little out of place.

Worth seeing?
In short, The Island is an engaging, impressively directed and beautifully shot drama with a compelling central performance from Pyotr Mamonov. Recommended.

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Content updated: 14/12/2019 01:48

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