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Into Great Silence (2005)

Director: Philip Gröning
    see all cast/crew...
Studio: Zeitgeist Films
Genre: Documentary, Music, Religion
Languages: English
Subtitles: French
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Into Great Silence (2005)
In this contemplative documentary from filmmaker Philip Gröning, the Grande Chartreuse monastery opens its doors to the public for the first time since being founded by St. Bruno in 1084 to offer an intimate look at a lifestyle rarely experienced by those outside of the brotherhood. Located in the remote regions of the French Alps, near the Dauphiné Alps, the Grande Chartreuse is the top monastery of the Carthusian order. In this documentary, the lives of the pious monks of Grande Chartreuse are captured on film as director Groening adapts to their ascetic lifestyle for six months and captures their daily life without the intrusion of voice-over, musical score, interviews, or archival footage. ~ Jason Buchanan, All Movie Guide

Into Great Silence (Bonus Disc) (2005)
Disc 2 Bonus Features:
  • Making-of dossier, with behind-the-scenes footage and handwritten notes from the monks
  • Making-of dossier, with behind-the-scenes footage and handwritten notes from the monks
  • Additional scenes, including a piece on the Carthusian's world-famous Chartreuse liqueur
  • Night Office: A 53-minute excerpt of the monks nightly ritual of psalms, lauds and matins
  • The Carthusians: An informative guide to the history, rules, architecture, art and daily schedules of the monks and the monasteries
  • Extensive photo and audio galleries
  • Video statement by Cardinal Poupard, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture at the Vatican
  • Also: Essays by the director on the film, its genesis and the Night Office

  • GreenCine Member Ratings

    Into Great Silence (2005)
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    6.84 (19 votes)
    Into Great Silence (Bonus Disc) (2005)
    New Listadd to list
    2.00 (1 votes)

    GreenCine Member Reviews

    One-of-a-Kind by talltale November 10, 2007 - 9:12 AM PST
    4 out of 4 members found this review helpful
    It is unlikely that the average viewer will come upon INTO GREAT SILENCE, let alone begin to watch this two-hour-and-forty-two-minute movie, without already knowing something about it. For instance, that it is a documentary set in a monastery in a mountainous region of France in which the brothers take a vow of silence. That's right: there is almost no talking in this long, unusual and often quite beautiful film. (Oddly, one of the brothers does talk a bit to the cats that appear for their regular feeding.) Scenes and seasons come and go rather quickly, interrupted by black-and-white inter-titles quoting from scripture. Some of these same scriptural quotes are used more than once--particularly one about being "seduced by Jesus."

    What would cause these men to dedicate their secular lives to god, generally in early adulthood? We never learn the answer to this (unless it's that much-used scriptural quote about seduction) because the German filmmaker Philip Groning was allowed only to come in and film. No verbal interviews, for obvious reasons. Except toward the movie's end, when an old blind brother suddenly talks about death, life and god in the clichéd words of one whose faith is deep and abiding but whose worldly experience is shockingly circumspect. Instead we see the men working in the garden, repairing their shoes, cleaning the premises, ringing the monastery bells (this latter--along with some occasional chanting--provides the only music we hear) and other endeavors. Along the way, at various points in the film, the brothers, in sets of three, are ready for their close-ups. They stare into the camera blankly, or, in a case or two, with some apprehension or humor. (One fellow with "Vulcan" ears seems to have a difficult time looking into the camera.)

    A red glass-encased candle gets lots screen time here, as does the opening address--spoken--from the leader to the novitiates. Though viewers will get bits and pieces of life under the monastery roof, they will not have a sense of life actually lived here because the movie cuts so quickly from scene to scene, day to night. The photography is often quite crisp and beautiful, then again grainy and rough. The brightest moments--literally and figuratively--come as the brothers take a walk in a summer countryside and later in the winter snow (they laugh and joke and even sled!) At one point I thought they were giving confession (unspoken yet: what would Hitchcock have been able to make of this?!), but perhaps they were only praying solitarily in their own little wooden corner.

    At one odd point, the camera pans some animals gazing and grazing, and the viewer cannot help but ponder the fact that they do not speak either, though more from necessity than choice. Prior to one brother's bell-ringing, the camera finds him looking awfully.... bored? Or perhaps I'm reading too much into this moment. But what else am I--are we--to do? There is so very much to be read into here because the movie seems almost random, if pleasantly so. But I do wonder what we might have made of a long (very long) television miniseries, say of twenty or thirty weeks, in which we followed these brothers in real time over a one- or two-hour period as they performed their various tasks. At the end of something such as this, we'd certainly have a better sense of the life lived inside these walls. I am only half serious, of course. After all, the ratings for a show like that would probably be rock-bottom.

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