Into Great Silence
During the close to two-hour film Into Great Silence there is no dialogue, there is no musical score, and there is no artificial lighting. Rather, the creak of monastery floorboards and the shafts of sunlight through monastery windows suffice. Documentary filmmaker Philip Groning spent more than six months filming one of the world's most ascetic monasteries in total silence, with no crew.
Into Great Silence is a meditation on the lives of the Carthusian monks, the Roman Catholic Church's strictest order. Monks of the Grand Chartreuse monastery between Grenoble and Chambery in the French Alps gave the filmmaker permission to film sixteen years after his initial request. That long waiting period was Groning's introduction, he says, to the deliberateness of these monks' lives, to their sensibility.
A spiritual voyage, Into Great Silence shadows monks who never sleep more than three hours at a time, eat in their individual cells with the exception of one Sunday meal, and follow a taxing day and night of prayer and work.
Groning told Steven Gradanus of "Catholic World Report" he hoped that "in the absence of language, the present moment would become such a strong, strong thing...so much stronger that in the presence of language...And this is what the monastery is about. It was totally intermarried: making a film about a monastery, about silence, about time."
One of the first and one of the last scenes of the film is of snow falling against a window pane. Into Great Silence moves from winter through spring and summer and back to winter, but the viewer's experience of the second winter is profoundly different from the first. By the end of the film, you can hear the snowflakes fall.
If you would like to explore films with similar themes, please click on Cristianismo.