Forgiving is a documentary about people who left the 'world' to start a new life in a monastery. This story shows an unknown side of the Russian Orthodox Church, which is hidden form the public eye. It demonstrates different characters and feelings about the monastic life in Russia.
Photographs were taken in several monasteries to show both diversity and unity of the story. The first location is Seliger Lake, Ostashkov, which in winter it turns into a silent and abandoned place. There are two main monasteries in Ostashkov: Zhitinev Covent of the Mother of God and Nilova Pystun. Both of them are hidden away from the city on small islands and surrounded by ice-covered lake. This landscape helps to express the atmosphere of monastic life: loneliness, isolation, constant struggle with yourself and temptations and everyday hard work. The third monastery is Borisoglebskiy Monastery in Dmitrov. It is a small monastery that is situated very close to the city but it has a rich history: during Great Patriotic War it was used by militaries and its spiritual life rose again only in 1993.
Both men and women monasteries have similar rules and stages of formation: postulant, novice and, finally, monk. This route is a hard ordeal, especially for the young who did not come to monastery of their own free will but were forced by tragic circumstances. This formation process is focused on deliverance of temptations and arrogance of secular life by 12 of labour each day, strict rules and spiritual education.
Masha was born in a monastery, now she is six years old and lives there with her mother. Masha lives in one room with other children who lost their parents and were sheltered by the monastery.
As all novices of the monastery Masha follows strict rules and has her own duties to fulfill. She helps cleaning the kitchen and looks after the older or disabled nuns.
Masha goes to classes in monastery school but she dreams about leaving the monastery and starting a new life in the capital. EVery weekend her mother goes to the city in search of job and a place to live.
Anya is 18 years old. She was brought to monastery in September 2014 when she lost both of her parents. She spent several months in children's home but then they sent her to monastery. She carries obedience and works everyday trying to get rid of the pride and get used to her new life.
Some young novices say that they can not get used to living in a monastery.
" I cried the first week here, I cried the second and the third. I cried every night for the whole month"
" I was thinking about going to monastery for three months. I understood there were too many temptations in the 'world'.
Vyacheslav spent one month in the monastery, he never regretted his decision and feels himself in the right place.
Some nuns live in their small temples and have a farmstead which provides the whole monastery with produce.
Mother Daniila is one of the nuns who live alone. She has a room in a temple on the shore of Seliger lake. Sometimes she has pilgrims visiting her, but most of the time she spends alone.
Each story is unique as well as the person but they all found themselves in monasteries at that moment. Some of them wish to go back to secular life, some of them did not have other choice and the others have already gone through these levels and live in their own temples alone with themselves. Their stories reveal the controversy of monastic life: tears of suffering in the beginning and enlightenment as a result. The leading idea of the documentary is that everyone has a different destiny and monastery can play different role for different people’s lives and only a few pass all the stages and devote the rest of the life to praying for forgiving human sins.