2007 SUNDANCE WORLD DRAMATIC COMPETITION FEATURE! “The Island” is an aimless and unconvincing parable masquerading as a Bergmanesque art film. It is either about a priest who sits around pretending to be a superstitious nut, a priest who is a superstitious nut or a priest with great wisdom and healing powers who acts like a superstitious nut.
Years after he shot his commanding officer during World War II, old Father Anatoly spends his time in the boiler room of an island next to a monastery. People come over and ask to speak with the great healer. This storied man is Anatoly himself, but he pretends to go consult another priest. He goes into another room to have loud, fake conversations, apparently believing that this gives his prophesies more weight.
When he’s not saving lives, Anatoly torments the whiney Father Job, who complains—to no avail—about his elder’s odd behavior. Anatoly rubs coal on the door handle, prays in the wrong direction and looks like a deranged hobo. This attempt to separate Anatoly from the worldly and serious church manages to be both obvious and ineffective.
The film depends on Father Anatoly being believable as a wise healer. He is not. His wisdom generally seems to be completely random (go to France to track down your husband because he isn’t dead) or obvious (don’t have an abortion). By the time we get to the resolution of his life’s work, we don’t care anymore.
Director Pavel Lounguine intends to continually change the background and credibility of Anatoly, but never shows any evidence that any of his advice and/or antics have helped anybody. So “The Island leaves us with all ambiguity and no reference point to give it any meaning.