Into Great Silence View large image
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Film Details

Directed by: Philip Groning Philip Gröning

Produced: 2005

Countries & Regions: France

DVD Details

Certificate: E

Length: 162 mins

Format: DVD

Region: Region 2

Released: 4 October 2010

Cat No: SODA033

Extras:
Languages(s): French, Latin
Subtitles: English
Interactive Menu
Screen ratio 1:1.78
Dolby Digital 5.1

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Into Great Silence

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Award-winning German documentary cataloguing the lives of the inhabitants of a remote monastery. The film, which offers an intimate... Read More

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Award-winning German documentary cataloguing the lives of the inhabitants of a remote monastery. The film, which offers an intimate portrayal of the everyday lives of Carthusian monks of the ascetic Grande Chartreuse, high in a remote corner of the French Alps (Chartreuse Mountains), was made some 17 years after the director initially requested permission. He lived at the monastery for six months, and filmed alone behind the walls that no ’outsider’ had ever been allowed to enter before. The film presents snapshots of random moments including monks frolicking in the snow, preparing a vegetable garden for spring seeding, and a summer Sunday outing during which monks are free to socialise.

In 1984, Philip Gröning asked for permission to film life inside La Grande Chartreuse, the mother house of the Carthusian Order in the French Alps. Sixteen years later, he was granted a unique shooting permit.

As no visitors or tourists are allowed on the premises, and the last shots from inside the monastery were taken in 1960 (and only allowed as long as no monks were shown), this was a rare opportunity, based on a longstanding and trusted relationship between Gröning and the General Prior, to show the daily rituals and requirements of a cloistered, contemplative life. The Prior's only restrictions were that there should be no additional film crew, no artificial light, and there should be no additional music or commentary – conditions which corresponded exactly with Gröning's original concept of the film, and to which he readily agreed.

Into Great Silence is almost entirely without speech. Instead, usually overlooked sounds come to the fore – the draw of air through a fire, the crackle of wood, the pendulum of a clock, even the falling of snow. Instead of making this a somnolent film, it heightens awareness so you are receptive to the smallest noises. We follow the monks' lives through the seasons as they live, pray, work, and in one surprising sequence, even play in the snow.

Gröning aimed to go beyond mere depiction of the monastery to create an absolute congruence between content and form, so that the film actually becomes the experience of the monastery. A rural interlude in which our eyes are refreshed by the green of spring fields is a visual equivalent of the lesson in which the Order recommends a walk in the country as a change from its rigorously austere routines. Even apparently picturesque moments serve a purpose; throughout we see lovely images of sunlight illuminating the monks' cells. These images illustrate the lesson of the sunbeam – that as the sun shines on all equally but brings light and happiness to individuals, so the Spirit gives to each one as if it were in possession of that person alone. From that moment the sunlight that floods the floors and walls, desks and benches, making the wood glow orange, takes on a symbolic hue and turns the film itself into a beautiful lesson in contemplation.

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