- Into Great Silence review by JD
It has to be crystal clear before viewing this that it is about a French monastery where silence is the general rule. With this expectation it is a sensational film, brimming with such intense devotion and spirituality that even an atheist was moved. The film has many 8 second scenes depicting the soulful lives within the monastery, which once truly immersed, are in fact not long enough. It is definitely not a film for dipping into. All or nothing. It lived with me for many days and makes me calm whenever I remember it.
2 out of 3 members found this review helpful.
- Into Great Silence review by NC
If you like the films of Angelopoulos or Tarr; or if you like the Renaissance masters of light and shadow such as Vermeer, De La Tour and El Greco, then you'll probably love 'Into Great Silence'. The photography and imagery are of the highest possible order. And, when added to that, there is an engrossing look through the window onto a group of people whose lives and lifestyles are a thousand miles away from the push and rush of modern western society; then I for one found the running time of nigh on three hours drift by with ease.
The film offers no history of place, individuals or the denomination. There are no explanations given. (Why are there seemingly so few monks in such an enormous complex of buildings? The occasional intertitles appear to bear little relevance to what follows). The meditative, contemplative atmosphere of the monastery is captured by long, silent shots of cloisters, candles, gardens, monks at prayer, the unhurried work of the lay brothers. The one regular, exterior sign of a 21st Century universe is a jet silently streaming across the sky.
I began by wondering by what journey did each monk arrive at the monastery, but realised this was missing the point. Each man must relinquish his character, his individuality, along with all earthly possessions. When a novice is introduced, each monk flicks back his hood to greet his new colleague, then pulls the hood up, as if to retreat into anonymity. A monk will flick his hood back to read a lesson, then pull it up when finished.
I am not praising this film as a Christian, or someone who approves of the religious life in any way. I'm a dyed-in-the-wool athiest. But I found myself supporting these monks. They choose to do no harm to anybody - or anything for that matter, as Carthusians do not eat meat. If you want to play devil's advocate you might ask what these people, in their cells for most of the day, are contributing to society. The response could be that the vast majority of people, no matter how unwittingly, are responsible for enormous damage to the environment. These monks are responsible for very, very little. That's contribution enough, surely. It's the kind of life I've often thought I'd like to live - except for the religious bit. A plausibly substantial sticking point.
At the end of the film I was left wondering whether, when the rest of humanity has blown itself to smithereens, there will still be monks in the Grande Chartreuse, pondering on the Infinity.
2 out of 2 members found this review helpful.