Into Great Silence
Spring 2007 Documentary series
Wednesday, May 9, 2007 at 7:00pm
Directed by Philip Gröning and
Rated G ·
English, French, Latin
Into Great Silence fits neatly into the sub-category of films that need to be experienced rather than just watched. Over 162 minutes director Philip Gröning films a group of monks who dwell in the Carthusian monastery of the Grande Chartreuse in the French Alps. The monks have taken a vow of silence, and live life at such a gentle pace that it took them 13 years to respond to Gröning’s request to make a film about them. The subjects of Gröning’s film fill their days with slow and highly repetitive routines, so the director shoots at a suitably slow pace, highlighting simple tasks such as praying, gardening, cooking, and doing laundry.
Gröning lived with the monks for four months and worked under strict conditions dictated to him by the order; no voiceover, music, or interviews were to be included in the film, and Gröning was to be the sole crew member on the shoot. There are a couple of moments when Gröning breaks with his modus operandi. He interviews an elderly blind monk, the Gregorian Chants practiced by the order occasionally feature, and the monks stage a snowball fight on one of their weekly breaks from the monastery. But the film is mostly comprised of a long, lonely trip into silence, and will doubtless leave its audience members in a contemplative and restful state of mind once the journey comes to a peaceful end.