The Island (Остров) is a 2006 Russian drama directed by Pavel Lungin (Павел Лунгин). Lungin is one of Russia’s most well-established and well-respected contemporary filmmakers, and The Island is a valuable part of his directorial portfolio.
The film takes place in a secluded monastery on the White Sea. Anatoly is a monk who lives in the monastery, but even in that lonely spot he lives apart from the other monks, without much mutual understanding. He spends much of his time on a rocky island near the monastery. Pilgrims come to him for his healing and prophecies. Anatoly is repenting for a thirty-year-old crime, the killing of his commander during World War II in exchange for his own life. The film tells the story of this crime, its long-delayed aftermath, and the decline of Anatoly’s life. It also presents a rare view of Orthodox Christian monastic life.
The film is highly atmospheric, with many shots of rocks, water, and loneliness and very little dialogue. Reviewers noted that it was filmed in a retro style reminiscent of the Soviet era, perhaps to increase the aura of spirituality and not distract viewers with flashy effects. Much of the dialogue, such as it were, consists just of repeated prayer. Beyond its technical virtues, it was also praised for being purely about its characters’ inner lives and for managing to avoid politicization. The film is clearly different from most contemporary and popular Russian cinema and is not for casual viewing or for pure entertainment. It won many prestigious awards, including six Golden Eagles (for best film, best director, and best actor—Pyotr Mamonov, Пётр Мамонов) and six Nikas, and has extremely high reviews on film rating sites.
Director: Pavel Lungin
Stars: Pyotr Mamonov, Viktor Sukhorukov, Dmitry Dyuzhev, Yuriy Kuznetsov, Viktoria Isakova, Nina Usatova
Production company: Masterskaya Pavla Lungina
Box office take: $2.6 million