Man of God (AU - PG)

In a word: Stirring

Man of God

Aris Servetalis plays St Nektarios in 'Man of God'.

The story of one of Greece's most revered Orthodox saints, St Nektarios of Aegina, Man of God is a gently paced film that explores the story of this remarkable man.

The film begins in the late 1880s after Nektarios (played by Greek actor Aris Servetalis), who was born in 1846 and had become a monk at the age of 30, had already been elevated to the rank of Metropolitan within the Greek Orthodox Church when he attracts the ire of his superiors thanks to his approach to caring for the poor, downtrodden and those outcast from proper society. Abandoned by his mentor, the Patriarch Sophronois, he was exiled from his post in Alexandria, Egypt, on a trumped up charge of fraud and forced to return to Greece.

"As the title suggests, the focus of this biopic is very much the character of St Nektarios - his faith in the face of persecution, his humility and his willingness to put the concerns of others before his own - and, by extension, the contrast of that heart with others in the church."

There he is shunned by church authorities who listen to those slandering him and is unable to find a church to preach in. Despite this, he continues to minister among the marginalised and destitute and eventually agrees to go to an island to fill a role as a priest that no-one else wants. But he faces opposition even there

Eventually he is given the post of director at the renowned Rizarios School, a seminary and a high school in Athens where he meets his assistant Kostas (Alexander Petros) - who is instrumental in helping his writings gain a wider audience. He shocks those at the school - particularly the school's president - with his willingness to serve something which includes him secretly cleaning the toilets (and even goes on a hunger strike to settle a dispute which breaks out between students). 


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The opposition against him continues as he is passed over when the church elects a new Patriarch (something he readily accepts but which Kostas struggles with) and when he went on to found a monastery for women on the isle of Aegina after he is approached by a group of women looking to become nuns. But Nektarios continues to follow his calling even as he lays dying, ministering to an paralysed man (played by Mickey Rourke).

As the title suggests, the focus of this biopic, which is largely film in English with some subtitles, is very much the character of St Nektarios - his faith in the face of persecution, his humility and his willingness to put the concerns of others before his own - and, by extension, the contrast of his heart with others in the church (a difference captured neatly when a church official criticises him for looking "more like a beggar than a bishop".)

The story, which was filmed in Greece, unfolds gently and keeps a narrow focus. The muted colour pallette and haunting soundtrack are all complementary to director Yelena Popovic's intention of keeping the focus of the film firmly on Nektarios who was made a saint by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in 1961.

There's a starkness and a beautiful simplicity to this film which, while it shows the many difficulties and unjust persecutions and slanders Nektarios faced, ultimately provides an inspiring example of a simple life of faith. 

'Man of God' is released in select cinemas in Australia and New Zealand on 2nd June. For a list of participating cinemas, head to www.movieschangepeople.com/in-cinemas/man-of-god.