Seventeenth century Russia, New Jerusalem Monastery. The recently deposed Patriarch Nikon, whose reforms lead to a schism in the Orthodox church, employs a French dramatist to stage the New Testament and hasten the Second Coming of Christ. Jacques de Sertan’s troupe consists of untrained and illiterate peasants. The actors are divided into roles, whole families play different social or ethnic groups that lived in Jerusalem around the time of Christ. No one, however, is allowed to play the Messiah.
The preparations take years and are interrupted when consequences of the schism catch up to Nikon. Everyone is arrested and forced into exile. Despite all the hardship, the rehearsals continue for years even after the deaths of the original actors with children inheriting their parents’ roles…
“The Rehearsals” is a stunning reflection on Russian history of ideas, national identity, art, literature and religion.
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