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Russian singer Mamonov plays hermit in new film

Written by: Staff

VENICE, Sep 11 (Reuters) Art closely follows life in a new Russian film about a hermitic monk with a guilty past played by a 1980s Russian rock singer who shunned society after a religious transformation.

The White Sea provides the barren backdrop for director Pavel Lounguine's ''Ostrov'' (''The Island''), in which former rocker Pyotr Mamonov plays Anatoly, a man who shoots a comrade during World War Two and winds up living a hermit's existence near an isolated monastery burdened with the guilt of his past.

People come from all over the country to visit Anatoly the monk, who is a practical joker and a thorn in the side for his Orthodox brothers, yet still revered as a sage and visionary.

Mamonov's pale, drawn face and broken teeth provide a physiological reflection of the almost colourless backdrop of water, snow-covered islands and a rotting barge full of coal.

Lounguine, who worked with Mamonov in his acclaimed debut picture ''Taxi Blues'' in 1990, insisted on Mamonov as the lead.

''Regardless of the fact that he is still connected to ...

entertainment, the fate of this extraordinary man and his personal life-journey from show business to religion reflects the plot of the film,'' Lounguine said.

''The Island'' premiered at the Venice Film Festival at the weekend, where it was showing out of competition.

Despite the parallels with his own life, Mamonov said he should not be confused with the character Anatoly.

''The hero in this film is representing a faith,'' the 55-year-old told a news conference. ''Maybe we share the same faith, but I think the hero in the film is a strong character, whereas I am just a weak person.'' The former lead singer of rock group ''Zvuki Mu'', who was at the vanguard of the underground music scene during the latter years of the Soviet Union, explained his transformation from a public to private figure.

''When I turned 40 I woke up and started to ask myself important questions,'' he said.

''When you are in a city you are exposed to too many temptations,'' said the actor, who lives just outside Moscow.

''You have to fight your desires.'' According to production notes for the film, Mamonov became religious, left the world of rock music and has lived as a recluse in the country for the last 10 years.

Lounguine said he moved the narrative of his film from the high-octane nightlife of Moscow in ''Taxi Blues'' to the silence and loneliness of the monastery in ''The Island'' to reflect changes in what many Russians were looking for in their lives.

''At that time (1990) it seemed that the most important thing in the country was to become a member of what is called the civilized world,'' he said.

''Nowadays, more than likely it is considered more important to resolve inner problems symbolically within the individual as within a country.'' REUTERS AD RN0458

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