Nestled deep in the postcard-perfect French Alps, the Grande Chartreuse is considered one of the world’s most ascetic monasteries. In 1984, German filmmaker Philip Gröning wrote to the Carthusian order for permission to make a documentary about them. They said they would get back to him. Sixteen years later, they were ready. Gröning, sans crew or artificial lighting, lived in the monks’ quarters for six months—filming their daily prayers, tasks, rituals and rare outdoor excursions. This transcendent, closely observed film seeks to embody a monastery, rather than simply depict one—it has no score, no voiceover and no archival footage. What remains is stunningly elemental: time, space and light. One of the most mesmerizing and poetic chronicles of spirituality ever created, Into Great Silence dissolves the border between screen and audience with a total immersion into the hush of monastic life. More meditation than documentary, it’s a rare, transformative theatrical experience for all.With 10 reviews up, Rotten Tomatoes registers the film at 70% fresh. Slant Magazine gave it a full four stars. Variety’s Jay Weissberg calls it a “surprisingly exhilarating docu,” “like the pleasures of watching a gently flowing stream.”
You can see the trailer at the film’s website, Zeitgeist Films (in English), Newsweek, and YouTube. For more about the film, see RT, the film’s website, Peter Chattaway’s post (who noted this one last month, but I somehow missed it), Steven D. Greydanus’ Decent Films take (who says, “Ultimately, Into Great Silence reveals itself to be about nothing less than the presence of God”), the Arts & Faith forum, Newsweek’s piece, a Telegraph review, a BBC interview with the filmmaker (which adds that this film packed theaters in Europe), a video interview at Cinematical, or more about the order at Wikipedia.
(Image: Philip Gröning Filmproduktion via Wikipedia)