Living alone in the dilapidated Hesbjerg Castle that he purchased more than 40 years ago, octogenarian bachelor J Lauersen Vig has convinced the Moscow Patriarchate to live out a dream by donating his hulking Danish home to the Russian Orthodox Church for use as a monastery. With his snowy shag rug of a beard and Scrooge-like glasses hanging precariously from the tip of his nose, the bookish Vig is a weird bird whose quiet eccentricities hold an underlying sadness. (He’s never experienced love, perhaps because his mother never kissed him, or maybe because he’s overly neurotic about dreadful-looking noses). His peculiarities and decaying backdrop grow
Grey Gardens in the mind, but as a beautiful and occasionally quite comical contrast, in walks strong-willed Sister Ambrosija and her clean-up posse. To get the building up to monastic snuff, she demands the roof and boiler be replaced, yet the equally stubborn Vig thinks he can fix it all himself. Unlike far too many human-interest docs today, director Pernille Rose Grønkjær’s fantastic little character portrait doesn’t rest on the strength of its personality, with prudent attention paid to aesthetic nuances (some of the long-shot tableaus are priceless, such as a chorus of nuns singing in squalor) and the growing quasi-love that the titular bickerers have for one another.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 21, 2007