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"He is alive,the Lord in whose presence I stand",
This review is from: No Greater Love [DVD] (DVD)
In an age of increasing marginalisation of religion and increasing secularisation of society,the hustle and bustle of the global economy,the attacks by the leading atheists,the materialization of reality,this documentary gives the `still,small voice' of a cloistered community of Carmelite nuns,in a monastery in the heart of London. This is the Carmelite Monastery of The Most Holy Trinity,given over to a life of contemplative prayer.Set in acres of gardens and nature,the nuns give themselves up to a life of chastity,poverty and obedience,in surrender to God. These working nuns are seen cooking,washing,cleaning,gardening,sewing,using the internet to order tuna.Their primary work is prayer in silence.The still camera captures the interior stillness.
Camera and lighting is unobtrusive,the director uninvasive,gently asking interviewees questions about any fear of death,periods of doubt,the inability to escape oneself.The answers are surprisingly honest and humble. Interiors are darkly beautiful,wooded panels or floors or Dutch corridors open to sunlight.The film is centred chiefly on Holy Week,the passion,death and resurrection of Christ,without which 'life has no meaning'.We get a birth(a novitiate professes her vows) and a death,a Sister Mary,who is shown being buried in the enclosed cemetery, movingly.Aged 97.There is great reverence to the elderly members of the community,who are taken care of.
In some group scenes we see one or two postulants,candidates for admission to the religious order,who are not yet in habit.We see how the habit changes with added,concealed,interior crucifixes,for the professed daughters of Carmel.They have proved their willingness to accept life in a community of imperfect souls.The scapular they wear is a symbol of their dedication to Mary,and her motherly care for them.Their Prioress is shown washing, drying and kissing the feet of the nuns.The Prioress quotes Hopkins poem,"death life does end and each day dies with sleep", to show the cycle of each day,ending,preparing for the next.Each nun has individuality as well as community.The monastery grows fruit and vegetables for itself and manufactures communion wafers for other churches.
The power of the sacraments and devotion to the Virgin Mary are constant themes,also they pray to the Twelve Stations of the Cross.Their lives of total self-giving transcends all personal concerns,binding the community together,keeping the light of faith burning,through severe self-discipline.The ending is startling as the camera draws back, upwards and outwards into the darkening dusk lit up by moving traffic and streetlights.We see it in context.A film of quiet homage to the director,Whyte's,long wait to gain unprecedented access. A film to counter the impersonality of the mechanistic modern world to recall man to an awareness of the mystery of being.