Showing posts from February, 2007

The language of silence... the language of God.

Following on the theme of inner silence and awareness of God's presence, a recent article by the excellent Fr. Ron Rolheiser omi describes the language of silence in ways that immediately put me in mind of the aforementioned film "Into Great Silence". Whilst watching this film I became powerfully aware of the strong bonds of community that unite the monks, despite the length of time that each hermit monk spends on his own or with the other monks in relative silence. I experience this in my own religious life and have also sensed it in monastic communities that have a more obviously visible community dimension. But it was lovely to feel the same sense of closeness and intimacy amongst the Grande Chartreuse monks. No more so than during the celebration to welcome two new candidates into the Noviciate (= initial training) after their probationary period.

Rolheiser talks about such closeness and links it well with the themes of silence and solitude, despite what would seem a …

"Into Great Silence" (4 ! :-) - cinema listings

Just to add that if you click here you will get a list of the days the film starts showing in particular cinemas around the country. See each cinema's own listings for details on times, etc...
click here

"Into Great Silence" (3)

Just to add a few points based on my own experience of the film.

During the first half I felt myself dozing slightly (during a very long fixed shot of one of the monks praying in his cell), but I soon realised that the director, Philip Gröning, knew exactly what he was doing. It seemed to me that he wanted the audience to let go of their expectations in terms of narrative drive and drama, and open themselves up to something much deeper and more challenging. The gentle rhythm of the film (times of prayer, the passage of the seasons, recurring visual motifs such as the close-ups of monks faces held for an unusually long time, etc...) invites you to enter into contemplation yourself creating a kind of sacred space, allowing you to become more aware of God's presence and more self-aware in terms of who you are and your relationship with God.

I found the second half of the film a joyously transcendent and at times profoundly moving experience, though until the last 15 mins. or so we se…

"Into Great Silence" (2) - from The Daily Telegraph (UK)

This article explains the background to the making of the film. Click here for the original article.

Monks put their lives in focus with a silent film

By Kate Connolly in Berlin
Last Updated: 1:29am GMT 11/11/2005

The strictest monastic order in Christendom has opened its cloisters to a film director for the first time, allowing him to shoot a three-hour near-silent documentary about its life. What some critics feared would be this year's most boring movie turns out to be a strangely fascinating meditation on the Grande Chartreuse monastery in the French Alps.

Into Great Silence depicts its Carthusian monks in the midst of their slow moving daily devotions and duties, from mending shoes to chopping vegetables. There are even rare moments of jollity: two monks sliding down a snowy slope in their white habits, laughing hysterically, and an elderly monk caught whispering fondly to cats.

The monks broke one of their rules recently to watch the film's final cut. According to the abbot, t…

"Into Great Silence" (1)

This forum review of the film from sums up most eloquently my own feelings about the film (click here for the original article).

Philip Gröning's "Into Great Silence" is one of those rare films that I hardly know how to begin to praise.

As a rather feeble point of departure, I saw nothing released in 2006 that I would venture to compare to it, in terms of achievement. Perhaps even nothing released in the few years I've been writing reviews. A shortlist of most valued films I've seen as new releases in my critical life might include The Son, The Passion of the Christ, Spirited Away, and a few others. This film is of a different order than any of these, or any I might add to the list.

Into Great Silence is more than just a documentary of monastic life. It is a contemplative, transcendent meditation on the human pursuit of meaning, on man as a religious and social creature; on the form and function of symbols and ritual and tradition; on the rhythm of …


Found this lovely text by Archbishop Harry J. Flynn (Diocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, U.S.A.) some time ago:


You will recall that Jesus was walking down the street and Zacchaeus, a tax
collector, wanted to see him. Zacchaeus, short in stature, climbs up a tree so
that he can get a good look at Jesus. As He passes the tree Jesus looks up at
Zacchaeus and says, “Zacchaeus, come down. I must stay with you today.”
Zacchaeus was so thrilled with this simple acknowledgment on the part of Jesus
that he came down from the tree and said, “Here and now I give away half of
my possessions to charity, and if I have cheated anyone, I am ready to repay
him four times over.”

Jesus Christ was an affirmer. He affirmed youngsters when the Apostles were
ready to turn them away. He put His arms around them and laid His hands on them
and gave them His blessings. He affirmed a widow with a new sense of

Dr. Conrad Baars wrote a fine work entitled “Born Only Once.” The thesis of