Cinema: “The man of God” or the dazzling figure of Nectaire d’Égine

Biggest success of the year 2021 in Greece, especially among young people, “The man of God” tells the life of Nectaire of Aegina (1846-1920), one of the greatest figures of Orthodox spirituality. In theaters March 10, 13 and 14.

Nectarios of Aegina, who repeated throughout his life “Lord, have mercy on me a sinner”, gave a new impetus to Orthodox monasticism and theology at the end of the 19th century. Archbishop, theologian and miracle-worker, he worked tirelessly to clothe himself in Christ and to be present with those entrusted to him. He is one of the most beloved figures in the Orthodox world. Particularly in Greece, his country of origin, where the film was the most viewed of the year 2021.

Since The Island (2008) by Russian director Pavel Lungin, Christian moviegoers were eagerly awaiting a new film to match this one around Orthodox spirituality. Because the particularity of this one is without common measure: it is carved in the heart of the Christian faith and sharp like the fire of the Holy Spirit to purify the soul. The man of God responds to this need of modern man to nourish his soul at the source thanks to the edifying example of Saint Nectaire of Aegina. It is an inspired and inspiring film, from image to dialogue, with an international cast.

When the Slavic soul meets an Orthodox saint

Who better than a Serbian director, driven by her Slavic soul, could put the life of Saint Nektarios into images? Yelena Popovic has applied herself to it since her reading in 2012 of a book on the saint. Its origins matter in the sense that the image differs from what we usually see in contemporary cinema. The shots are themselves animated in depth and oscillate between academic shots and inspired shots, thanks to which the content of the image says something in itself.

As required by the serene figure of the saint, and by the Greek actor Aris Servetalis who embodies him, the film is both slow and fiery, it is consumed to the rhythm of this energetic soul abandoned to God. Here, few scenes driven by emotion to lead the action. Everything is to be understood, how this man keeps peace in the face of calumnies and trials; how his attitude nourishes his writings and leads him towards holiness. To those who do not understand his attitude, his refusal of anger or defense, he replies: “Without peace in your heart, you will never be able to know the truth”. And it is indeed striking to see him, in all circumstances, having recourse to peace as a priority, his own and that of the other.

Director Emir Kusturica said of the film: “It takes us on paths that lead us back to the lost path (…) It helps us to immerse ourselves in the depth of being and suggests to us that we have no no other way out than to seek our balance under the sky of faith”. The music of Zbigniew Preisner, the famous Polish composer known for having collaborated with Kristof Kieslowski, also helps to enter into the mystery of this salutary way of the Saint of Aegina.

A father, a thaumaturge

Having become metropolitan of Pentapolis after having been a monk, Nectaire arouses the jealousy of part of the clergy of Alexandria. It is feared that he will become its future patriarch and he is expelled from Egypt, after having been slandered by his spiritual father. He then lives in great destitution, rubs shoulders with the poor of the streets and shares with them what he has, is refused wherever to obtain a charge. Until taking the one no one wants, on a Greek island. But part of the clergy continues to esteem him, despite the fear he arouses because of his excessive freedom. In any case, power does not interest him, which he equates to a cancer that gradually rots the heart of man. He is therefore appointed director of a seminary, where his reputation will take on greater importance. His message leads by example. He never saves his strength, his time and his presence. In addition to all his duties, he gardens, writes, prays a lot, watches and sleeps little. Initially underestimated by young people, he became their example and their father. Her relationship with the young Kostas is particularly touching. He feels abandoned when Father Nectaire decides to help young nuns to build their monastery in Aegina, now a place of pilgrimage for the whole world. Place, however, of his greatest trials, he will remain faithful to his spiritual daughters until the end, standing at their side. Because the worst lies circulate about his relationship with them.

As Father Nektarios struggles to work for the Kingdom of God, to give selflessly and to protect his spiritual children as if they were himself, the viewer is tormented by his example. The last scene of the film, inspired by a dialogue of the Karamazov brothers by Dostoyevsky, which the filmmaker is fond of, is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful. Yelena Popovic managed to bring out a lot of peace from this encounter between a paralyzed man (played by Mickey Rourke) and the future saint. It’s an end scene that opens onto something else, the beginning of a new life, that of the characters or the spectator himself.

Practice :

The man of Godby Yelena Popovic, with Aris Servetalis, Alexander Petrov, Mickey Rourke, in theaters March 10, 13 and 14


Cinema: “The man of God” or the dazzling figure of Nectaire d’Égine