I’ve forgotten who recommended this first film, but I’m forever grateful to that person, because, and I agree with the New York Times when film critic A.O. Scott called it “utterly spellbinding.” While Into Great Silence isn’t for everyone, this masterpiece by German filmmaker Philip Groning is “a transcendent, transporting experience,” according to the Los Angeles Times, “intoxicating and enlarges your concepts of movies and life, according to the Chicago Tribune, and “breathtaking” according to Newsweek Magazine.
“Nestled deep in the postcard-perfect French Alps, the Grande Chartreuse is considered one of the world’s most ascetic monasteries. In 1984, the Carthusian order of monks was ask for permission to make a documentary about them. They said they would let the filmmaker know sometime in the future. Sixteen years later, they were ready. Groning, sans crew or artificial lighting, lived in the monks’ quarters for six months – filming their daily prayers, tasks, rituals and rare outdoor excursions. This transcendent closely observed film seeks to embody a monastery, rather than simply depict one – it has no score, no voiceover and no archival footage. What remains is stunningly elemental: time, space and light. One of the most mesmerizing and poetic chronicles of spirituality every created. Into Great Silence dissolves the border between screen and audience with a total immersion into the hush of monastic life. More meditation than documentary, it’s a rare, transformative experience for all.”