Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Into Great Silence

I just finished watching a very peaceful, mesmerizing film about a cloister of ascetic monks in the French Alps. The monastery is known as the Grand Chartreuse, which houses the Carthusian Order of monks. This film - "Into Great Silence" - is just that, a film of beautiful and meditative silence. The only sounds are the natural sounds of footsteps, creaking wood, nature, chants and prayer. The filming alternates between an artistic graininess and crystal clearness.

At the very beginning, it seems like the movie will be a boring document about some Catholic monks, but the movie quickly draws the viewer into a world of ritual, simplicity and devotion. There is no hurry, no rush, only serenity as the monks go about their day eating, praying, shaving, cleaning, gardening, cooking, taking care of animals and much more. Normally, such rituals would have no entertainment value for movie viewers, but somehow the film enchants the viewer. In fact, it begins to feel as if the viewer is right there with the monks.

I was hypnotized, and quite often I found myself not in the past, not in the future, but right smack dad in the middle of present. The mind was quiet, the body relaxed. It was a visual and auditory meditational experience.

I had never heard of the film until it was recommended to me by Netflix. It is definitely a film that I'd recommend to my readers. It was a winner of the Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival in 2006, and it has received five other awards and three nominations from other associations, festivals and awards programs.

If you watch it, let me know what you thought about it! You can watch the trailer HERE.

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