Within the framework of our current exhibition, Richard Davies: Russian Types and Scenes, we are screening a series of films set in the north-west of Russia where Richard took the photographs in the book and documented the grass-roots projects for the restoration and preservation of wooden architecture, for which (both the architecture and the social initiatives to preserve it) the region is famous.
First in the series is 'The Island' (Pavel Lungin, 2006, 112 minutes).
The collapse of communismin the early 1990s meant among other things the renewal of religious freedom, and a revival of official partnership between Orthodoxy and the state. The fringes of religion, however, continued to be as quirky as they always are: Orthodoxy has seldom been orthodox. Lounguine’s film addresses itself to mining the psychology of one of the oldest of Russian “types”, the holy loner, half sage and half madman. Father Anatoly (Pyotr Mamanov) is a charismatic monk, living in a remote island monastery. The setting is the 1970s (though perhaps it could have been any time). A series of visitors to the island – most of them unwelcome – allow Lounguine to explore the complexities and contradictions of faith in a way that struck viewers when the film came out in 2006 as strikingly original. We are rather far, here, from the “high art” of Tarkovsky and a film like Andrei Roublev , but what Lounguine has to say on the matter has its own humorous intelligence and authenticity.