Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Silence that speaks volumes
Jean E. Pouliot | Newburyport, MA United States | 05/05/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Into the Great Silence" is a German film about French monks who pray in Latin. The monastery of the Grande Chartreuse in the French Alps houses a community of monks of the Carthusian order that has been praying in nearly-total silence and solitude for nearly a millennium. It took the filmmakers over a decade to obtain permission to film at the monastery, but the results are lovely. The monks live in an isolated Bavarian-style villa high in the mountains and hew to an austere daily regimen. They rise well before dawn to pray -- alone in their cells -- for hours. They occasionally gather to chant the liturgy of the hours. They retreat to their cells, where they take meals, bathe and study in solitude and silence. The film follows the monks through their day and over the course of a year, from the deep snows of winter, through the planting season, and around again to winter.
The film is long, it must be said. It features long, lingering shots of the monks at prayer -- favoring closeup shots of an ear, fingers, lips and eyes. But visually, the film is breathtaking. The interior of the monks' cells is spare, with plain wood furnishings and gray, stone walls. The diffuse lighting is almost entirely natural. Many of the shots achieve a Flemish painter's level of natural beauty and homeliness, with parts of the shot plunging into darkness. The camera lingers lovingly on small elements of the monkish life: a candle flame that hovers almost disembodied near the tabernacle in a near-dark chapel during middle-of-the-night prayer; a view of a snow-laden roof seen through a monk's window. The potential monotony of this approach is broken up using a number of techniques. Monks are caught as they make small movements -- adjusting the flue in a wood stove, eating from a tin of soup, scrubbing a plate, learning a new chant. Communal moments are shown as well -- the monks getting haircuts, filling pitchers of water, walking to chapel. The camera also focuses on the small things of nature -- a leaf, a rushing spring, water dripping from a drying dish, a patch of sky -- permitting us to study the beauty and simplicity of the small elements of the creation that surrounds us. In all of these ways, viewers find themselves drawn into the monks' silent world of prayer.
There are drawbacks and debatable choices. The filmmakers interspersed standard film stock with scenes made by (or in imitation of) the shaky home movie stock of the 1960s. Perhaps this was done in an attempt to provide a sense of the community's longevity. But the technique came just "this close" to being the a precious, film-school distraction. Though the Gregorian neums and script in the wonderfully over-sized chant books are an object of the filmmakers' attention, the contents of those beautiful words is never apparent. Those who have chanted the Divine Office during a retreat may know what is going on (the chanting of all 150 psalms over the course of a few weeks), but others will not. Too, there is a focus on the seasons of the year, but not on the seasons of the Church -- Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter -- which are enormously more significant to the monks. Then again, with a single unfortunate exception, one does not know much about the contents of or the motivation for the monks' prayer. What do they spend so much time doing -- meditating on the Passion? Scripture study? Self-analysis and reflection? By the same token, this lack of information brings viewers into contact with their own inner monologue -- "what are they doing now?" "How long will this movie last?" "How is the film structured?" These reflections, born of the silence of the movie theater, may precisely map to the inner lives of the men the film portrays. A more pressing issue is with the biblical texts that are occasionally (and with deliberate repetition) displayed on the screen. One verse, from Jeremiah, was horribly mistranslated from the French. The French read, "You seduced me, and I *allowed myself to be* seduced." The translation read, "You seduced me, and I was seduced," not entirely the same thing. Missing from both was the context of the verse, in which the prophet Jeremiah accuses God of luring him into prophetic career that caused him to be mocked and derided -- a far cry from the gentle feeling these words evoke when divorced from their biblical context. And one more problem: the one monk who spoke about his inner life was an elderly, blind man whose gentle piety was a vapid as his sight was blunted. One can only hope that others had an interior life that was less pollyannaish.
"Into Great Silence" is a challenging film on many levels. It is not easy to spend three hours watching others pray. But in the end, it succeeds in bringing the interior life of the monastery to a cinematic audience. Whatever flaws it suffers are subsumed to that larger and more worthy achievement -- the devotion of one's entire life to the worship of God."
Into Great Silence - A Sense of the Sacred
K. Paul | Indiana, USA | 06/01/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I was totally transported by the beauty of this film and the profundity of its message and was not bored for one second. In contrast, coming out of the film I felt bombarded by the ugliness of our modern surroundings, the visual vulgarity, mind-numbing noise, and frenetic agitation all around. I wished to be back in the film's ambience of the sacred.
It helps to have a sense of the sacred to appreciate this film. If you are looking for action, even if it's only the monks' "inner" struggle, pick another movie. This one is about success on the spiritual path not failure, and measure of success in the monastery is different from that in the world. These men entered the order with a purpose, to seek the great Peace, and they have found it. One has only to look at their faces, presented with stark directness to know this. Yes, we could be told of all the struggles they faced and the joys they knew, but it is not the purpose of this film to expose a roller coaster of emotions that we can imagine, but to show the extraordinary peace we cannot imagine, and it does this brilliantly with its beautiful camera work and its stately and dignified pace.
Some want to know what these men are thinking. Perhaps they are thinking about God, and their thoughts of God need not be complex to be profound, for the simple utterance of His name can contain all other prayers. This connection of silence with the search for God is expressed by the most diverse spiritual authorities from Black Elk - "for is not silence the very voice of the Great Spirit?", to Jili - "He who speaks becomes silent before the Divine Essence", To St. John of the Cross - "One word spake the Father, which Word was His Son, and this Word He speaks ever in eternal silence, and in silence must it be heard by the soul".
It is hoped that the viewers of this film will look past the need to be entertained and open themselves to what this film has to teach us. I for one am very grateful to those who produced it and for those who so generously allowed us entrance to this sacred world."
I loved it. Best DVD Silent movie I've ever seen.
Vincent Lim | Singapore. | 08/09/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Being always drawn to the Rule of St Benedict and a lover of Silence, this production allowed me to experience a little of my dream vocation. It helps "reset" ones complicated sight of life to what is really important. And what is really important is the essence of Life. Union with God. God Love you and Mary keep you."
3 Hours of Blessed Quiet
P. McMullen | Central West Ohio | 08/10/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"WOW! It was great in the theater on the big screen and it transfers pretty well to the small living room theater as well. I Highly recommend this movie if you need a little peace and quiet time this is it! The movie follows a year in what many people consider the most austere monastery in the world! The U.S. release is scheduled for October, if you can't wait get this one from Canada."