We met with actor Dmitry Dyuzhev in the theater to discuss the movies. However, we mostly spoke about the Church. This is what happens when people have similar mindsets. Besides, a true Russian actor cannot live without God, and Dyuzhev is a true actor… Here are several brief monologues by this famous actor about visits to monasteries, “inoculations” of faith and his encounter with a possessed woman.
A Trip to Athos
Recently I went to Mt. Athos for the first time. I got there for the feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos and saw the cloud surrounding the mountain with my own eyes. Just like you see on icons! It was amazing! Brilliant!
When you see things like that, the presence of Her Cincture on this earth and the presence of the Theotokos Herself become natural and credible! You get the same feeling in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem: This is where the cross was erected, this is where they came down from the hill and this is where He lay! The historical credibility of the events described in the Gospel becomes obvious. You can’t argue with that. You feel even greater joy inside, realizing that the things you read or heard about are true.
Truly religious people are not waiting for miracles; they don’t need to tempt God.
I asked a monk on Mt. Athos, “How often do you see miracles here? Is there any recent evidence?” He answered, “You know, Dmitry, miracles are given to people of little faith. God gives the miracles as a reward to encourage such people and strengthen their faith, while truly religious people are not waiting for miracles, they don’t need to tempt God, and so they would never say, 'God, give me a miracle!' They would even be ashamed to think like that.” That is how it is!
I also noticed how the Word of God is nurtured on Mt. Athos. When people get there, they often ask, “Can we do this?” or “Can we do that?” while the monks general attitude is “Well, just step aside, the most important thing is that the Word of God should be heard!” And indeed, the Word of God is present there in everything.
Inoculation of Faith
I was lucky to get my inoculation of faith when I was a child. Once when I was feeling down, I walked into a church, where I was met by a priest. He anointed me with oil and said, “When you go out in the street with this cross, you will feel your Guardian Angel walking to the right of you. He will always be with you and he was always there, you simply didn’t and couldn’t hear him. Now you will understand that you are not alone. If you ask that angel and listen to his advice, he will always lead you to goodness and holiness”.
Spiritual fathers later explained to me that the meaning of life and the destiny of people was to find the path to holiness.
I think that sometimes people come to holiness through suffering for their faith. There are many new martyrs, such as Evgeny Rodionov, who was captured during the war in Chechnya and beheaded for professing his faith in Christ. However, to have the inclination for holiness, you need to go to church, you need to confess, partake of Holy Communion and try to live according to the commandments.
My parents were not very religious and neither were my relatives, so I was cultivating my small seed of faith on my own. It was difficult because at that time religion was rejected, and if you were religious people would ask you, “What are you, an old lady?” That was the attitude: “Ok, those old ladies can believe, but you’re so young; how can you?” I overcame all that. Later, it happened that I lost my parents and my family. I started looking for my path to holiness on my own. I started visiting monasteries, soul searching, looking for a place where I can be alone to serve God.
About Various Monks
When you come to stay at a monastery and work there as a labourer, you have to pass an interview with a monk who will either give you his blessing to stay or not. I had amazing meetings with monks. All monks seem so dignified and alike when they are silent. However, when a monk starts talking, you understand right away what he was in his previous life—the life that he left behind when he came to the monastery. In one case, the monk used to be a military man and so he spoke accordingly: “Yes, sir! Affirmative! What? Where? What was the purpose? What if I won’t let you stay? What if you get tired? What if you can’t do it? Answer me now!” When this monk with the military background was walking in the monastery, he would give orders: “Don’t sit! Don’t sleep! Carry on! Assemble!” (laughs). It almost felt like he was about to shout, “Eyes front, soldier!” That was how it was. In another monastery, I met a monk who used to be a policeman. I remember his scrutinizing questions: “What is the purpose of your visit? What do you expect to get out of it? What do you need here? Maybe you’re interested in something else here?” I felt as if I was being interrogated, and although I knew that I hadn’t done anything wrong, I felt a little guilty when he spoke to me like that (laughs).
When you get into a monastery, everything changes. They say that one demon is sent to every person, but forty demons are sent to every monk. As soon as you are in the monastery, you become a participant in many stories, experience many temptations, and have many meetings. Father Tikhon very skillfully described this in his book Everyday Saints.
St. Ambrose used to say, “Cover yourself with humbleness, and then you won’t be afraid even if the sky falls down.”
In Optina monastery I saw a possessed woman when I was standing in line to venerate the relics of St. Ambrose. There were just a few people between her and me. The Liturgy was still going on when she started growling and charging at people. I think this started when she approached the relics and was about to touch them. She was literally growling, grasping for air, dashing forward and back, but the crowd was tight and there was no room for her to fall. The monks, like special forces troops, ran out of the altar, took her up, brought a chair and sat her down near the wall. A priest came out and started sprinkling her with holy water and reciting prayers. The woman was trying to get away, shouting like a man with a low hoarse and husky voice. It was very scary. Although, ethically it was not right to stare at a person in trouble, as an actor I have been trained to observe life, whether it be holiness or sin. Naturally, I couldn’t help watching… When I was approaching the relics of St. Ambrose, who used to say, “Cover yourself with humbleness, and then you won’t be afraid even if the sky falls down”, I was thinking, “Let the sky fall down, I’m not afraid, I am not afraid.” I was wondering, “What if it happens! We never know what can happen, so maybe I didn’t remember some of my sins or have done something wrong. What if I the things that happened to that woman should happen to me…” Thankfully, everything went well. When I turned around, I saw that woman sitting. She was all wet and her head and hands were relaxed. Then she came to and started looking at people with clear eyes, not understanding what was happening.
The Miracle of “The Island”
These observations of monks and possessed people came in handy for me when we were shooting The Island. The movie itself became evidence of a miracle for me… It is not often that you see a situation in the movie business when people are sincerely and honestly trying to do their job. When they are trying, in a way, to call for God’s blessing so that everything works, out and the goal of the director and actors is understood by the audience. However, the objective of art is to pose questions rather than answer them. In this movie, Pavel Lungin, the director, wanted to pose questions about faith and miracles and ask people how they feel about them, what do they believe in, and what is a real miracle for them? This movie turned into a spiritual quest or spiritual experience not only for the viewers, but for the actors as well. I will reiterate that we were sincere during that journey. Maybe that was why the miracle happened and everybody started talking and asking questions about the movie, even though it was released without any hope for popularity or appreciation.
Re-think the main questions of life from the Orthodox perspective.
I can’t thank Pavel Lungin enough for giving me the opportunity to play monk Job in this movie and re-think the main questions of life from the Orthodox perspective. He also gave me a chance to develop as an actor through this perspective. At that time, everybody only saw me as Kosmos , while in The Island I was a totally different person, changed beyond recognition. People literally said, “It took us a while to realize that the role of the monk is played by that guy from Brigada.
What does Piotr Mamonov listen to?
After The Island was released, we went on tour with the director and cast for “meet the artist sessions” in various cities of our country. I noticed that Pyotr Mamonov was always wearing his headphones on the airplane. I was wondering what kind of music Piotr Mamonov listened to in his free time. Once he offered, “Do you want to listen to this?” I said, “Sure, I’d like to know what you’re listening to.” So I put on the headphones and realized that he was listening to John Krestiankin’s homilies. I was really surprized, and Piotr Mamonov said, “Yes, for me listening to these Words is like being fed by the Holy Spirit”. John Krestiankin was a talented and very interesting preacher. I too often listen to his recordings, especially when I can’t go to a monastery…
The Strength of Faith
Our life is the main miracle.
A believing person cannot be defeated. As Turgenev said, “If the person is kind, nobody can defeat him.” So nobody can defeat a kind and believing person. You can hit, hurt or ostracize him, but he will be smiling happily. Why are such people so strong and fearless? That is because they are not afraid of losing anything.
It is a rule of a thumb already, if you are blamed for something that you didn’t do, it is a temptation before some big event. That is what people think it is. You must overcome that temptation in a proper way. That is, God prepared something big for you, but before that He gives you an opportunity to prove your dedication, as if saying, “I do love you, but you have to let me feel your big love too.” That is why you can’t be irritated by these smaller temptations. Such irritation will bring you down. It means that you are not worthy and not ready for a big test. It means that you live in a carnal world, rather than in a spiritual world.
The Main Miracle
Our life is the main miracle. This is the most important miracle. This is what all monks say: “When you wake up in the morning, it is already a miracle, and you should thank God for it right away!” It is so difficult to teach this to my son! After you have lived for a while, you understand what not waking from sleep means as this happens quite often to people around you. We know how great is the happiness of waking up and thanking God for giving you another day so you can hope and live that day as your last day, making all decisions in that day without leaving it till tomorrow. And when you go to bed, you think, “If You think that it is enough for me, take me with You…”