The Island (2006)

Absolutely NOT to be confused with Michael Bay’s knock-off of Parts: the Clonus Horror from the previous year. This is a tale not of clones and spare-part surgery but madness and guilt, and our main figure, Father Anatoly, has much to feel guilty about. As a teenager, he was captured by Germans during WW2 and allowed to live if he shot the captain of the boat he was serving on; having accepted this rather horrific offer, he’s rescued by a group of Orthodox monks and becomes part of the community… as the story flashes ahead to the 1970s, though, we see he hasn’t exactly got over that wartime trauma, indeed it’s driven him kind of mad… and the monks are further baffled by his appeal to the local laypeople, who see him as possessing great gifts (this metaphysical aspect being one of the film’s more intriguing features). The Island is a film in which not a great deal happens (and it could probably have withstood some trimming), with such conflict as it contains taking place mainly in Anatoly’s tortured soul. It’s a showcase for Pyotr Mamonov, a semi-regular for director Pavel Lungin who was a rock star in a previous life before undergoing his own conversion; Mamonov channels something fascinating into his depiction of this difficult man, who applies his religion harshly to others as to himself, and who seems unable to forgive himself for being alive. On the whole it’s a quiet film, but there is quite a good deal of beauty in that quietness, and alongside Mamonov’s excellent lead performance there’s also the remarkable location, the island of the title, in which all this takes place, rendered in striking widescreen photography in a stark range of chilling whites, blues and greys. This wintry locale really is exactly the sort of place in which a story like this should unfurl.


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