Summary: For those devotees of church history, Yelena Popovic’s film provides people with a depiction of Nektarios of Aegina (Aris Servetalis). This legend and eventual saint of the Eastern Orthodox Church’s life in ministry is brought to cinemas. From his exile from Alexandria to his death, audiences are introduced to a relatively unknown figure outside of this denomination.
Nektarios did not seek fame during his lifetime. Yet, his affinity towards the common man made him one of the most admired church figures while an annoyance to the leadership. As he cared for the poor and lived a pious life, the bishops and patriarchs did all they could to ostracise the priest within the hierarchy. Something that constantly plagued the man of God throughout his career. Still, this did not deter him from reaching out to the marginalised, teaching peasants to read and write, or inspiring many young men to join the priesthood. Even when he was considered for leadership roles, the religious establishment did all it could to keep Nektarios down, regardless of the apparent fruits of his ministry work.
Review: Within Popovic’s devoted screenplay to the celebrated saint, she does all she can to show how her hero of the faith continually rose above his difficulties. The writer/director works hard to show why the priest would go on to become a mystical figure within the church. While not holding back on unearthing the corruption within the leadership ranks and throwing a spotlight on the mistreatment of her central character. Despite a relatively understated performance from Aris Servetalis, the surrounding cast delivers the passion usually attributed to this holy figure and his community. Alexander Petrov, as Kostas, along with the students and nuns who follow after this revered priest, there is a wealth of young talent to buoy this story. Still, not sure why Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler) suddenly appears in the film, but this can be overlooked since he is only on screen for less than five minutes.
Much of this journey may be challenging for those unfamiliar with the Orthodox Church’s traditions and history. Due to the reliance on the denominational context, it does take some time to follow what is happening. Yet, as components of his back story are made known, the narrative becomes easier to follow. While it might be hard to imagine that anyone besides Jesus was as perfect as Nektarios of Aegina is portrayed, this movie shows why he was eventually acknowledged and considered one of the most renowned Greek saints. Man of God delivers a historical framework for this pillar of the Eastern Orthodox Church. This made for a fascinating study of his life that will be embraced by the steadfast of the faith.
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REEL DIALOGUE: Are we alone in our struggles?
Watching the Nektarios of Aegina’s story being played out, despite being surrounded by people, the film inflicts a deep feeling of being alone on this planet.
Are we alone on this journey called life? It is easy to feel isolated in a crowd, much less as a man tries to live down his unwanted fame. Isolation can be a physical reality, but it is truly a state of mind for many. We can seek out solace in personal relationships or through technology, but these things eventually have limited satisfaction.
This profoundly philosophical query can be answered by saying that God is there for us all. Mankind needs to merely turn around and acknowledge His presence. During times of joy or loneliness, God is there for us and provides a relationship unlike any other. Where do you start? Begin with the first book of the New Testament - Matthew 28:20 - ‘behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age’ and then go back to the beginning of the story and introduce yourself to the person of Jesus. Matthew
You never have to be alone again...