Customer Review

53 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A look inside cloistered walls, 23 Nov 2007
This review is from: Into Great Silence (2 Disc Collector's Edition) [2006] [DVD] (DVD)
Zeitgeist Films presents a documentary directed and written by Philip Groning. In French and Latin with English subtitles. Filmmaker Philip Groning spent six months living among the monks of the Grand Chartreuse Charterhouse in the French Alps for his documentary "Into Great Silence." The filmmaker was granted unprecedented permission to film in 2002. This was not given lightly, for his request was put forth to the prior sixteen years earlier.

This is cinema at its purest and most exalted. It is hard to place into words a film, which is wrought in silence. For 162-minutes you will be allowed a glimpse of the ascetic strictness of the monks. I do not see this as a documentary, but an immersion into an entire way of life that will have no voiceovers or explanations. Just a small part of our time spent in transcendent meditation on the human pursuit of meaning, on man as a religious and social creature, on the form and function of symbols, ritual and traditions. And on the rhythms of work and prayer, night and day, winter and spring.

It is a beautiful film where everyone will take away something different and hopefully fulfilling. The film will not allow you to enter the world of the monks, but to just view it from the outside. You will see the day-to-day activities from season to season and be able to form your own opinions and conclusions. Many may at first experience impatience at the repetitions and variations encountered, but allow yourself time to adjust to the contemplative pace. And be witness to the ordinary moments that taken together are a representation of grace.

The Carthusian monks who are the subjects of this documentary do not have a great deal to say. Living in a light-filled stone charterhouse in a picturesque valley in the French Alps, they bind themselves to a vow not of literal silence but of extreme reticence. We view the daily lives, prayers and routines of this most ascetic of Catholic Orders founded in 1084 by Saint Bruno. The monks, because of their vow of poverty, subsist on very little. They pray aloud at times and sing solemn Gregorian chants, but they rarely speak, except on there Monday walks.

The monks in their rigor and discipline find their freedom and fulfillment. Your view on the monastery and our world will change as the movie progresses. And isn't that what a good movie or book is suppose to accomplish? It is a world of yesteryear as it existed one thousand years ago, where some modern technology has crept in, as you will see. In our modern world of moral decay this gives us a window to a traditional Catholic existence. A two thousand year tradition of following the Desert Fathers into a way of life that is rarely, if ever, seen.

I feel that this film is about the presence of God, a God who is there for those who seek Him with their whole hearts. In the film only a blind monk offers some simple but piercing observations on Christian happiness, abandonment to God's providential care, and the tragedy of the loss of faith and meaning in the modern world.

This film is not only for Catholics, it is for everyone in the world to see and benefit from.
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