Into Great Silence

Director: Philip Groning

Germany-Switzerland| 2005. Subtitled. Colour. Dolby Digital Stereo. 160 min.

Nearly 20 years after his initial request, film-maker Philip Groning was granted permission by the General Prior of the Grande Chartreuse monastery, located high in the French Alps, to document the day-to-day routines of the reclusive Carthusian Order of Monks, a centuries-old Roman Catholic brotherhood. Groning was required to live and work among the monks, filming by himself for only a few hours a day. The resulting work is a masterful object of contemplation, a 162-minute journey into a cloistered world of ritualistic repetition, always with the promise of revelation and transcendence. As Groning’s camera acclimates to the Grande Chartreuse’s sequestered rhythms there comes with it an increasing sense of liberation. The monks still maintain their unique distinctions of self, but are now united (as are we) in common purpose and singular pursuit. Pursuit of what exactly? Call it God. Call it Cinema. Every person has their sublime object of worship and Groning’s film offers up some striking and unforgettable parallels between religious and artistic struggle. — Keith Uhlich/Slant Magazine.

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