Since its August premier at "Window to Europe-2008," Angel's Aisle has attracted considerable attention. In Vyborg it received the Rostotsky Prize for best debut film, in November it won the Grand Prize at Moscow's "Radiant Angel" Festival and in December earned its director, Nikolai Dreiden, a top prize at Novgorod's Historical Film Festival "Veche." In October 2009, the movie placed third in the International Orthodox Film Festival "Pokrov" held in Kiev, behind Vladimir Khotinenko's Priest (Pop, 2010) and Pavel Lungin's Tsar (2009). Were we to judge the film by the company it keeps, we might expect yet another pretentious hagiopic that has, of late, come into favor. Fortunately, this proves not to be the case: Angel's Aisle strikes this reviewer as an interesting and honest attempt to create an engaging feature film that promotes spiritual values and personal responsibility.
Billed as a dramatic thriller, Angel's Aisle unfolds in 1924, after Lenin's death. We are introduced to a young Chekist (Aleksei Morozov), who demonstrates his commitment to the Bolshevik cause by executing a priest when all around him fail to do so. The operative, himself the son of a priest, is next instructed to pose as a postulant at the Konevsky Monastery and there await his next target. Under the alias of Maksim Proshin, he embarks on a journey outside of Soviet space in pursuit of much larger prey: the Regent of Finland, Carl Gustav Mannerheim (a role Tapani Perttu has often interpreted for Finnish audiences both on stage and screen).
n Karelia, Maksim encounters the youngster assigned to take him across the border into enemy territory. The generous, noble Zhenia (a remarkable performance by the then six-year-old Masha Reznik) serves as Maksim's geographical guide and moral compass, forcing him to reevaluate his beliefs and behavior, a process that only intensifies when the two enter the monastic community's life on an island in Lake Ladoga. For some the venue and the murderer-protagonist have prompted comparisons with Pavel Lungin's Island(Ostrov, 2006). While the twenty-something director demurs, he archly suggests that he approached the issue of sin and redemption from a distinctly Petersburg perspective. Dreiden has consciously built his tale of crime and punishment upon Dostoevsky's original, complete with revelatory dreams, the trope of illness and the transformative power of faith and repentance...
Director: Nikolai Dreiden
Scriptwriter: Nikolai Dreiden
Cast: Aleksei Morozov, Emiliia Spivak, Mariia Reznik, Tapani Perttu, Aleksandr Bargman, Artur Vakha, Vitalii Kovalenko, Dmitrii Lysenkov, Vladimir Matveev, Khel'ga Fillippova, Vitas Eizenakh, Oleg Riazantsev