The Monastery: Mr. Vig & The Nun 

Directed by Pernille Rose Gr?nkjaer

This celebrated Danish documentary chronicles the twilight years of benevolent octogenarian Jorgen Lauersen Vig (looking like Santa Claus as written by Charles Dickens) and his efforts to turn his decrepit family castle into a Russian Orthodox monastery. The Patriarch of Moscow appoints the sprightly Sister Ambrosija to oversee the project, but she and Mr. Vig have some differing opinions as to how the Monastery will be instated. Appearing less like observational documentary and more like the Dogme 95 version of staged cinéma vérité, the film teases at the prospect of a romantic comedy through the constant bickering between the increasingly cantankerous Mr. Vig and the youthful Sister Ambrosija.

Stemming from the film’s publicity, which carefully refers to Vig as a ‘bachelor’ rather than a ‘hermit’, and extending to the film’s lengthy ruminations on Vig’s denial of the concept of love, things seem all lined up for a May-December affair. However, don’t expect any Hollywood-style coupling in the last reel: Mr. Vig’s journey is spiritual not sexual, in this touching and respectful character piece.

Not every sequence in the 84-minute running time zings with energy: watching Vig pull up carpeting and rummage through cupboards is about as much fun as cleaning out one’s own basement. But the buoyant musical score and the numerous close-up shots of dust particles dancing in the sunlight complement the vitality of the film’s creaky and wheezy but nonetheless determined protagonist.

Opens August 29 at Film Forum


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