First year student at Zelig Documentary film school, Anke Riester, watched this neo-classic for the first time. Here is the review:
For 40 years, Mr. Vig, a 82-year old bachelor from Denmark had a dream: to transform his run-down castle in the heart of the Danish countryside into a Orthodox Russian monastery. Finally his dream seems to come true as the Moscow Patriarchate sends 3 nuns, headed by Sister Ambrosija, to Denmark to get the castle into shape for the final goal. After a lot of renovation works they move in and the castle is approved by the Patriarchate. From now on the nuns share the life of the old man who used to live alone for decades.
The filmmaker follows Mr. Vig in a very intimate way through all the ups and downs that are caused by these new arrangements. The well-educated elderly man is a character every filmmaker is after. He carries the whole film so intensely that as soon as he leaves the frame it becomes hard for the viewer to stay focused. These pauses are filled with images of landscapes which are all mostly similar and too long for “taking a breath”.
The close relationship between Mr. Vig and the filmmaker makes the viewer feel as if he lives next door and this makes it easy to sympathize with this very special old man and his century-old dream. Mr. Vig often forgets the camera and just sees and talks to the person behind it. This gives the movie a very authentic and natural feel as well as a deep insight into the world of his protagonist.
The editing style is very obvious. The cuts are clearly visible, jumping bravely from one situation to another within the interviews with Mr. Vig, combining different parts of his sentences. This technique gives the viewer a feeling of honesty instead of interrupting the flow of the film.
The only problem is that the theme of realising a dream didn´t seem to be enough for the director. She is very determined to try to create a forced love story between Mr. Vig and Sister Ambrosija. This would not would have been necessary because the main story works well enough.The film is even ending with Vig´s death and a citation of a letter that Sister Ambrosija wrote to him after his passing away. In my opinion it would have been a perfect ending to see which dimension Vig´s dream of monastery had finally reached. The end leaves the viewer alone with this unfulfilled expectation. Still it´s a unique story and definitely worth watching.
Denmark, 2006, 84 mins.
PS. “The Monastery” has been reviewed and reported upon several times on this blog.