Last night at the Doris Duke Theatre I saw Philip Groning’s 2006 film Into Great Silence, available online in a (Two-Disc Set). In 2000 Groning finally gained permission from the Carthusian Order at the Grande Chartreuse, a deeply ascetic monastery in the French Alps, to make a documentary about them. The resulting film was created solely by Groning, who lived for six months in the monk’s quarters and filmed everything from cutting firewood and planting seeds to midnight mass.

With no musical score or voice over, and only a few rare moments of talking or chanting, the film is not only a meditative experience but reveals the power of image (and Groning’s editing) to create a narrative without words. There is a story here, there’s opinion and commentary in the organization and choices of what to show and how–none of this is new, of course, to filmmakers or film buffs; however the play of silence, light and spirituality is, I believe, groundbreaking, and utterly fascinating throughout.

The Doris Duke Theatre site calls it “One of the most mesmerizing and poetic chronicles of spirituality ever filmed,” remarking that the film “dissolves the border between screen and audience with a nearly 3 hour immersion into the hush of monastic life. More meditation than documentary, this is a rare, transformative theatrical experience.”

If you live on O`ahu, it’s still playing, and is definitely worth a look.

Photo linked to theatre site, Mahalo!

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