EUFF Documentary Review: “Flowers from the Mount Of Olives” (2013)


Original title: Õlimäe õied

Director: Heilika Pikkov

Screenplay: Heilika Pikkov

Music composed by: Sven Grünberg

Producer: Ulo Pikkov

Genres: Documentary film, History, Drama

Running time: 70 minutes

Everyone has their own story to tell. This is why documentary film is important to let people speak up about their experience in a compelling and creative way to make us think and analyze our life. When we walk on the street we pay no attention to other people; we are all deep in our own thoughts. And when, for example, we see nuns crossing the street, we might not pay attention to them at all. Perhaps because we see no difference between them and the other people walking on the street. But, have we ever asked ourselves why and what made the nun became a nun? Are they a nun by choice or by destiny? We may never know the answer to this question, however, “Flowers from the Mount of Olives” does not attempt to answer this question, but rather, gives a hint of the answer, telling us the life changing moments, and the circumstances that made her who she is now –  Mother Ksenya.

flowers_from_the_mount_of_olives_2013_2Next to Jerusalem, in a Russian Orthodox Convent, in the Mount of Olives, lives the 82 year-old Estonian nun, Mother Ksenya. Inside the convent, life still follows the Julius calendar, where Mother Ksenya has spent her last twenty years. In the hierarchy of the nunnery she has achieved the second-to-last-level. She is heading towards complete silence, the Great Schema. But before that, thankfully, she has been given permission to tell the story of her life – the life that was full of ups and downs.

Mother Ksenya was born February 20, 1928, in her parent`s bedroom. The marriage of her parents was very romantic, until the moment her father cheated.  When she was a little girl, she witnessed nothing but screaming and fighting. Unfortunately, this is how Mother Ksenya grew up – in the middle of the battles of her loved ones. Later, as she grew, Mother Ksenya believed that marriage meant that people lived together yelling and throwing things at each other. So she promised herself she would never get married. However, believe it or not, before Mother Ksenya becomes a nun, she is married three times. Her first marriage did not last long, and by the age of 20 she was already divorced. Her second marriage literally saved her life, because one of her previous men made her a morphine addict which she found almost impossible to overcome.

Happily married, she moved to Australia, but soon after buried her second husband. Even though Ksenya had found the church long ago, before she became a Mother, she had many dreams for the future. And one of them was to become a scientific researcher and she actually worked hard to become an oncologist, researching cancer. Her third marriage also did not work out well, but that did not break Ksenya’s spirit.

These, and many other events, lead her to the church, where she finds peace and harmony in her life. As soon as she becomes a nun, Mother Ksenya vows never to leave the convent to the end of her days on earth, and accepts God as her Father, and the church as her Mother. In Flowers from the Mount Of Olives, Mother Ksenya carefully buries all her painful and disturbing memories, but agrees to dig them up to tell the story of her life and her life in the convent. And, while she is telling us her story, she never forgets to execute her main duties; to pray for people, advise on religion, and play with the turtles.

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