Release Date: February 28th, 2007 (Film Forum) by Zeitgeist Films.
Directed by Philip Gröning.
BASIC PREMISE: A documentary about the customs of Roman Catholic monks in Grand Chartreuse, a reclusive monastery in Isère, France.
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: To call this a film in the strictest sense would be a misnomer; it’s more like a transcending experience. But transcending from what to what? Some might transcend into a state of deep sleep while other more patient viewers will be wide awake. Audiences will have polarized experiences because director Philip Grönin chooses to let the camera observe the daily activities of the Chartreuse monks without any dialogue until the very end. Basically, he requires you to do all the analytical work as the camera merely records the sights and sounds. When the monks finally do speak very briefly, it feels quite startling as if it were a plot twist. But when they don’t speak and just stare at the screen, which is quite often, it feels frustrating and a bit awkward. Some scenes are beautifully-shot because of their utter simplicity, such as a monk sand-papering wood or slicing vegetables to prepare a soup. The picturesque images of nature outside of the Chartreuse add a level of breathtaking beauty, but, eventually, the images, whether inside and outside, become quite repetitive and dull. The highlight is a surprisingly lively scene where the monks slide down a snowy hill—too bad Gröning’s camera records that in a long shot rather than a medium or close-up shot. Factoring in the sluggish pace and the running time of 2 hours and 50 minutes, Into Great Silence demands a lot of patience from viewers and, ultimately, overstays its welcome.
SPIRITUAL VALUE: None, other than the tranquility of resting your mind from all of the noise and hustle-and-bustle of modern civilization.
INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: Repetitive and lacking in insight.
NUMBER OF TIMES I CHECKED MY WATCH: 16
IN A NUTSHELL: Beautiful cinematography doesn’t make up for the sluggish, sleep-inducing pace and repetitiveness and the lack of insight into the lives of the monks.
RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: DVD - Strictly for very patient viewers. Best watched completely alone without distractions.
The "I" Menu