You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Monastery

Using material shot sporadically over six years, TV-experienced helmer Pernille Rose Gronkjaer builds an affectionate but admirably unsentimental portrait of her eccentric, headstrong protagonists.

With:
With: Jorgen Lauersen Vig, Sister Amvrosya, Pernille Rose Gronkjaer. (Danish, Russian, English dialogue.

A curmudgeonly octogenarian offers his crumbling Danish castle to the Russian Orthodox Church, but then clashes with the new nun-in-chief about how to run the place in accomplished docu “The Monastery.” Using material shot sporadically over six years, TV-experienced helmer Pernille Rose Gronkjaer builds an affectionate but admirably unsentimental portrait of her eccentric, headstrong protagonists. Pic, which won first prize at top-tier docu fest IDFA, could win hymns of praise from auds and TV buyers when it screens at Sundance next month. However, theatrical distribs might justifiably be more cautious given film’s offbeat subject matter.

With his snowy, spade-shaped beard and threadbare scarecrow’s duds, pic’s main man Jorgen Lauersen Vig looks like a character from some blackly comic or angst-ridden 19th-century Scandinavian novel come to life. Via conversation with pic’s mostly offscreen helmer and lenser Pernille Rose Gronkjaer (who occasionally wanders into a shot when summoned to help shift furniture around), it’s revealed that confirmed bachelor Vig bought the remote and ramshackle castle of Hesbjerg 50 years ago. His dream was always to turn it into a monastery in order to get right with God before he dies.

Although born and raised a Protestant, Vig doesn’t seem to mind which Christian faith might come to Hesbjerg. (Indeed, judging by some posters of Buddha seen at one point, some Buddhists have passed through the place already.)

Vig persuades the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow to consider using Hesbjerg, and, before long, construction-savvy Sister Amvrosya shows up with a small entourage to try the place out. Over the course of several visits over a few years, Amvrosya and some more nuns settle in, but the pragmatic and tidy-minded bride of God tussles continually with Vig over which repairs should be done first and who — her or him — is really in charge of the place.

Despite Amvrosya and Vig’s cultural and personality clashes, Gronkjaer captures moments that illustrate their growing affection for one another, even a kind of platonic love that grows out of their shared pursuit of a spiritual way of life. Scenes of the nuns’ long, mesmeric, music-suffused services are juxtaposed with ones showing Vig and Amvrosya bickering comically over domestic chores. The combined effect brings to mind last year’s award-winning docu on monastic life, “Into Great Silence,” crossed with some jocular television DIY makeover show with a touch of “Big Brother.”

Thankfully, Gronkjaer’s low-key, observational aesthetic and use of 16mm stock, which proves particularly apt for the light-infused spaces of the castle, prevents pic from seeming like a reality-TV show. Editing by Pernille Bech Christensen propels story forward at a nice, steady pace but also takes welcome timeouts for inserted nature shots that illustrate the changing of the seasons. Score by Johan Soderqvist also adds a classy touch.

The Monastery

Denmark

Production: A Tju-Bang Film A/S production in association with the Danish Film Institute, Nordic Film & TV Fund in co-production with DR TV, YLE TV2 Documentaries. (International sales: First Hand Films, Zurich.) Produced by Sigrid Helene Dyekjaer. Executive producer, Michael Fleischer. Directed by Pernille Rose Gronkjaer. Written by Jens Arentzen, Per K. Kirkegaard, Gronkjaer.

Crew: Camera (color, 16mm-to-35mm), Gronkjaer; editors, Pernille Bech Christensen, Theis Schmidt; music, Johan Soderqvist; sound, Kristian Eidnes Andersen. Reviewed at Intl. Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, Nov. 26, 2006. (Also in Sundance Film Festival.) Running time: 84 MIN.)

With: With: Jorgen Lauersen Vig, Sister Amvrosya, Pernille Rose Gronkjaer. (Danish, Russian, English dialogue.

More Film

  • BondIt Media Capital

    BondIt Media Capital Closes $20 Million Credit Facility (EXCLUSIVE)

    A curmudgeonly octogenarian offers his crumbling Danish castle to the Russian Orthodox Church, but then clashes with the new nun-in-chief about how to run the place in accomplished docu “The Monastery.” Using material shot sporadically over six years, TV-experienced helmer Pernille Rose Gronkjaer builds an affectionate but admirably unsentimental portrait of her eccentric, headstrong protagonists. […]

  • Brookings Institution presents "The Life She

    Brookings Institution Doc Puts a Human Face on the Medical Marijuana Movement

    A curmudgeonly octogenarian offers his crumbling Danish castle to the Russian Orthodox Church, but then clashes with the new nun-in-chief about how to run the place in accomplished docu “The Monastery.” Using material shot sporadically over six years, TV-experienced helmer Pernille Rose Gronkjaer builds an affectionate but admirably unsentimental portrait of her eccentric, headstrong protagonists. […]

  • Playback Podcast: Aaron Katz on 'Gemini'

    Playback: Aaron Katz on 'Gemini' and the Erosion of Mid-Budget Studio Filmmaking

    A curmudgeonly octogenarian offers his crumbling Danish castle to the Russian Orthodox Church, but then clashes with the new nun-in-chief about how to run the place in accomplished docu “The Monastery.” Using material shot sporadically over six years, TV-experienced helmer Pernille Rose Gronkjaer builds an affectionate but admirably unsentimental portrait of her eccentric, headstrong protagonists. […]

  • The Equalizer 2 trailer

    Denzel Washington Is Back in Action in 'Equalizer 2' Trailer

    A curmudgeonly octogenarian offers his crumbling Danish castle to the Russian Orthodox Church, but then clashes with the new nun-in-chief about how to run the place in accomplished docu “The Monastery.” Using material shot sporadically over six years, TV-experienced helmer Pernille Rose Gronkjaer builds an affectionate but admirably unsentimental portrait of her eccentric, headstrong protagonists. […]

  • Robert Redford

    Robert Redford's 'The Old Man and the Gun' Lands Awards-Season Opening

    A curmudgeonly octogenarian offers his crumbling Danish castle to the Russian Orthodox Church, but then clashes with the new nun-in-chief about how to run the place in accomplished docu “The Monastery.” Using material shot sporadically over six years, TV-experienced helmer Pernille Rose Gronkjaer builds an affectionate but admirably unsentimental portrait of her eccentric, headstrong protagonists. […]

  • Super Troopers 2

    How 'Super Troopers 2' Became the Biggest Crowdfunded Movie Campaign After 'Veronica Mars'

    A curmudgeonly octogenarian offers his crumbling Danish castle to the Russian Orthodox Church, but then clashes with the new nun-in-chief about how to run the place in accomplished docu “The Monastery.” Using material shot sporadically over six years, TV-experienced helmer Pernille Rose Gronkjaer builds an affectionate but admirably unsentimental portrait of her eccentric, headstrong protagonists. […]

  • Empty movie theater

    Netflix and Byron Allen Could Be Getting Into the Movie Theater Business

    A curmudgeonly octogenarian offers his crumbling Danish castle to the Russian Orthodox Church, but then clashes with the new nun-in-chief about how to run the place in accomplished docu “The Monastery.” Using material shot sporadically over six years, TV-experienced helmer Pernille Rose Gronkjaer builds an affectionate but admirably unsentimental portrait of her eccentric, headstrong protagonists. […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content