|the version I have|
The first time I watched this film, I thought it was going to be full of overly orthodox religious Christian themes, and was a film made solely for religious audiences. I'm not saying that's not the case, but there are elements of this film that I had ignored.
The themes present in religious elements in the film such as faith, redemption, and grief are present in humanity in general, monks are just used as characters. As the film progresses, it becomes more accessible to even atheists, allowing us to empathise with the main character, appreciate the solace, and the surrounding island scenery.
The Island is an obvious title, and I bet it also refers to the monk being an island of his own. Taking place on a remote northern Russian island, holding a monastery full of monks, the protagonist being one himself, his peers are wearing robes and being the typical robed Holy guys, he's covered in coal, being called a joker, pulling pranks, and is fairly eccentric with members of the community coming to see him.
The reason he's a monk is at the start, he's serving in WW2 in the north and gets into a confrontation with the Nazis, and loses his friend. Without spoiling it, he blames himself, so becomes a monk. Throughout the feel you sometimes wonder if he really wanted to become a monk, because he's an individualist, even criticizing and mocking the way they pray, their manners, etc.
The film even contains some laugh out loud humour (from the eccentric monk clashing with the others), but it never breaks away from the desolate feel of the place. The basic piano loop music works really well, giving the film a genuine feel for the ground it's covering.
Not much light in that part of the world after all... but a fair amount in this film. I hail this as a great film, rather than a Church-goers best friend.