On Staroverci

That’s Czech for старообря́дцы, which is Russian for Old Believers, a linguistic factotum that is actually worth keeping in mind, because (as noted in the movie and this Wikipedia article), communities of старообря́дцы continue to exist in the United States, including a fairly large one in Woodburn, Oregon (note that the Wiki picture is taken outside the chapel on the grounds of Mt. Angel Abbey).

It’s a good documentary, well worth watching. It was filmed in a large community in Romania, and consists mostly of interviews with various members of the community: old, middle-aged, young, male, female, fervent and even somewhat dispassionate. Some of the people seem to have some sort of understanding of the world outside their community, others clearly have not the least bit of interest. Some times this seems to come off badly under the direction of Jana Sevciková, but not necessarily. It’s shot in a very grainy black and white, and there are extensive shots of what seems to be a swamp and the trees that surround it. It’s a primeval landscape and certainly seems relevant, although I thought it was a little overdone. There are some great moments, including a number of portraits of the men who ring the bell, somewhat in the style of Anglican changes.

The best moment in the movie comes when one of the Old Believers makes a definitive statement concerning his faith, and then even takes on the visiting filmmakers:

We believe what the prophets wrote for us 1000 years before Christ. Our fathers left us a gift, and we must carry it on. I don’t know what your opinion is, or if you are looking for … or if you came to tempt us, or if you came to help people … I don’t know. I can’t say, but we are supposed to fulfill the legacy of our fathers.

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