Pavel Longuine'sThe Island, showing at Sundance in the World Dramatic Competition after closing the Venice Film Festival last fall, is a moving tale about sin, faith and redemption. Anatoly is a young man serving on a Russian barge during World War II, stoking the engines with coal, when the barge is taking captive by German soldiers. The Germans give the terrified young man a choice -- to be shot and die, or to shoot his captain and live. Anatoly shoots his captain, and is left on the barge by the soliders, who blow it up once they are off, leaving him for dead. Anatoly and the remains of the barge wash up on a remote island inhabited by a monastery.
Thirty years later Anatoly -- now Father Anatoly (Russian musician and artist Pyotr Mamonov, of the '80s experimental rock band Zvuki Mu) -- still lives on the monastery's island, keeping its boiler stoked with coal. He shuns living in the monastery proper, choosing instead to live in the boiler, sleeping on a pile of coal. Amongst his fellow monks, Father Anatoly is an anomaly -- a monk who sings loudly atop the bell tower, rarely bathes, refuses to wear fine vestaments, and prays in his own way. The locals view Father Anatoly as something of a holy man, and seek him out for advice and healing.