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As part of my job is watching a lot of movies (oh the hardship...)I figured I might as well make a list of what I have seen, and write a snippet or two about them. For some strange reason I decided to begin with a film about hermit-monks.

In some sense continuing the monastic trend from a precious post, though this time instead of adorable dancing Franciscans there are silent, meditative Carthusians.

The Carthusian order are followers of the rules of St. Bruno, and are considered one of the most ascetic orders in western monasticism. The goal with their monastic existence is to live a life of constant prayer, and to do so solitary and in a strange sense a hermit-like community. Documentary filmmaker Philip Gröning released Into Great Silence in 2005, claiming the film was "an intimate portrayal of life in Grand Chartreuse". The film uses no non-diegetic sound, it has no voiceover or any form of explanation and this has caused many to laud the films near meditative qualities.

I found the film interesting and incredibly fascinating. An explanation for the latter could be my general interest for monasticism (which I blame entirely on Sound of Music and Hildegard von Bingen, btw.), but the aesthetic of the film is at times so gorgeous that it too needs to take its share of the blame.

Gröning switches between Super 8 camera, which gives a blurry, amateurish and personal feel - and the crispy clear digital camera. The juxtaposition of these two styles create quite a lot of visual tension and in some sense gives the film a drive it would otherwise lack.

In addition the film rarely lets you get a proper look at the monks faces, instead it trails after the brothers positioning you as a viewer as someone peeping over their shoulders and thereby participating in their life.

Between the scenes of monks praying, chopping wood or mending their clothes Gröning includes quotes from the Bible. These quotes are repeated again and again, which helps in giving the film its meditative feel.

Though I think it is interesting to try to make a documentary focused on silent contemplation, that aspect is also my biggest peeve of the film. In the end the shots of monks praying, snow melting to reveal flowers, the sky above the monastery, more snow melting becomes not just repetitive but also a bit speculative and new-agey in the bad sense.

That said the film is utterly fascinating and hauntingly beautiful.

The official web-page is here. ETA: The trailer is on YouTube, which gives you an idea about the use of sound and perspective in this film.


The great blog Self-Styled Siren has an absolutely wonderful post about George Sanders, described by one of his wives as possessing "caddishness of Homeric Proportions, here. I quote:

Then there's Sanders, determined to rid himself of second wife Zsa Zsa Gabor, arranging to break into her bedroom on Christmas Eve with a detective and a photographer in hopes of catching the Hungarian beauty in flagrante. Sanders climbed through the window. Flashbulbs popped and Zsa Zsa's lover sprang, too late, for the bathroom. Sanders held out a gift and boomed, "Merry Christmas, my dear!"

Since Sanders was and remains my favorite part in All About Eve I read this with glee. If you know who Sanders is then run and read, and if you haven't yet had the pleasure (?) then please do the same.



( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 9th, 2009 02:05 pm (UTC)
I think I would love to see this film. It sounds wonderful!
Mar. 9th, 2009 02:08 pm (UTC)
Hee. I was hoping you would say that, because I think you would really like it. ;) It is quite a brave film in what it tries to do, and I'm not sure it succeeds completely - but it is pretty close. The cinematography is simply stunning and the way the film actually tries to depict silence (and in consequence; sound) is fascinating.
Mar. 9th, 2009 04:08 pm (UTC)
I think I would love to see this film too! Sounds very interesting!
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )