Into Great Silence

Into Great Silence

Monday April 4, 7:00pm

Booth University College

a unique film experience, that will draw you into the life and prayer of a monastic community


he documentary film Into Great Silence is as much a contemplative experience as it is a movie, and while you can rent the video for home viewing it really is best to see it on a larger screen and in the company of other viewers. In so many ways a perfect film for the season of Lent, Into Great Silence presents a moving portrait of life in a Carthusian monasterysomething that outsiders never get to seeby simply moving in and filming the day to day life of the community. A way of life that seems utterly detached from the “real world,” part of its reason for existing is to hold the world in constant prayer. And as you watch the community go about its work, you’ll find yourself drawn to the faces of those monks, almost as if you’ve come to know them.

*There is no admission charge for this event, but we do ask that you arrive between 6:30 and 6:50, so we can get everyone into the theatre room prior to the college doors being locked for the evening. Booth University College is located at 447 Webb Place.

Here is the “heads-up” on what you might expect. Clocking in at 160 minutes, the film moves viewers into a space where time seems to simply fade into the background. There is very little dialogue (perhaps a total of  two hundred words are spoken), and there is nothing by way of narration or explanation. This is not a popcorn movie… but instead of craving something crunchy and butter-drenched, you may well find yourself in a place of prayer alongside of the monks. This is how the film company describes the project:

Nestled deep in the postcard-perfect French Alps, the Grande Chartreuse is considered one of the world’s most ascetic monasteries. In 1984, German filmmaker Philip Gröning wrote to the Carthusian order for permission to make a documentary about them. They said they would get back to him. Sixteen years later, they were ready. Gröning, 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 ever 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 theatrical experience for all.

We’ll begin at 7:00pm with a very brief introduction to the nature of the Carthusian monastic life, and then move into the screening. On its completion, we’ll let the theatre be simply silent for a few minutes, and then will have a short discussion for anyone who wishes to stay on and debrief the film. You may, however, decide you simply want to slip out quietly and let the film do its own work.

To view a trailer of the film, simply click here.

2 Responses to Into Great Silence

  1. Louise says:

    It struck me that the word silence (in german I believe) is stille and the quote from the Bible that ran in my heart throughout the viewing was ‘Be still and know that I am your God’ By stillness and silence these monks allow God to manifest Himself to them.

    • Jamie says:

      Thanks for this, Louise. Yes, that sense of “be still and know” permeates the life of the monks. A couple of things really struck me this time (my fourth viewing…).

      First of all, I could that for the monks who have lived this life for a while, everything is contemplative… from sawing wood for the fire to repairing a hiking boot. I ache for that kind of perspective on life.

      Secondly, there was the scene right near the end, where the camera trained on the face of an ancient monk, clearly near the end of his life. You could see that he’d probably entered some form of dementia, yet there was a peacefulness in his face. Pretty clear that he was where he needed to be, and that the community would take care of him even as he slipped toward his death. And what about that segment where one of the younger monks is rubbing ointment into the back and arms of one of the very old monks? Oh, that someone will care about me that much when I’m at that age, as to anoint me with such tenderness.

      It is an amazing film, mostly because for those men it is an amazing life.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.