Into Great Silence
- Tony McKibbin
- 12 February 2007
Shakespeare’s comment that ‘The silence of pure innocence persuades when speaking fails’ pervades German documentarian Philip Gröning’s film about life inside a silent Carthusian monastic order in France. For Into Great Silence is less of a critical examination and more an apt consideration of its inhabitants and the immense leap they have all made for their faith.
Filmed in the Grand Chartreuse Monastery up in the Alps near Grenoble, this long, demanding film suggests that communion with nature may be as important as that with God. This is evident in the small still-life meals, the simple tasks the monks perform in the monastery gardens, and their backbreaking endeavours during the snowy winters and sun-kissed summers.
It’s as though Gröning got so caught up in the months at the monastery spent filming alone that his critical faculties were replaced by a benign sense of wellbeing. How impressive you find the film will depend on whether you manage to share a similar sense of wellbeing. If you have the stomach for it, this low key, demanding, occasionally transcendental work about the nature of silence is as thought provoking as it is rewarding. More meditation than movie, Into Great Silence attempts to sweep time to the surface.