Saturday, February 28, 2009

Into Great Silence

I missed yesterday's post because after Mass and Stations of the Cross at the Basilica the Notre Dame chapter of the Knights of Columbus hosted their first soup dinner of the year. (Many thanks to Daniel for coordinating and cooking! He is quite the chef.)

For the past couple years the Knight have tried to encourage prayer and fasting on campus by offering a simple dinner of meatless soup, bread, and water after the Stations are prayed in the Basilica. All are invited to attend. This sets an excellent example to all.

Last night was the first time they added the viewing of a spiritual movie following the dinner. The chosen movie was "Into Great Silence" - an award-winning film released in 2005.

For those of you unfamiliar with this work, Wikipedia's description says it all:
"Into Great Silence (Die Große Stille) is a documentary film directed by Philip Gröning that was first released in 2005. It is an intimate portrayal of the everyday lives of Carthusian monks of the Grande Chartreuse, high in a remote corner of the French Alps (Chartreuse Mountains). The film was made 16 years after the director first requested permission to make it. He lived at the monastery for six months, and filmed all alone; behind the walls no "outsider" had ever before been allowed to enter."

The movie is very quiet. There is no dialogue - only a few places where the monks chant or speak.

I'm sorry to say that I (and many others in the room) fell asleep! In our defense, the movie is nearly 3 hours long. So, it's very challenging to stay awake for the entire film if you start it a little before 10:00pm at the end of a very long week.

Nevertheless, what I saw was a wonderfully reflective look into the lives of these holy monks. I was a little disappointed by the cinematography. The film quality in many places was very poor and grainy. I'm not sure if this was an artist choice by the director, or simply a lack of resources. If it was the first, I wish he hadn't, and if it was the latter, I'm sorry he didn't have more money.

It was definitely very European. Every European film I've ever seen has strange, odd, sometimes awkward shots and scenes that make me think very much of existentialists and modern art. I suppose that is no surprise, and I imagine that's probably what they're getting at.

If you ever do have 3 hours and the energy to stay awake, the movie is worth watching. It is very contemplative. I think that it is something I would like to watch again - especially now that I know what to expect.

For those of you interested in joining us for our weekly dinners and movies, soup is served around 8:00pm in the basement of the Knight's Building on South Quad. The movie will be shown when everyone has finished eating.


Daniel Salzman said...

You're welcome! :-)

JohnRDC said...

What a riot! I love the fact that you fell asleep and owned up to it.

My wife and I own the DVD and watch it when the mood strikes. Actually, the Cistercians have great fun in the movie and there is a very funny sequence when they dis the Trappists.

Nevertheless, I believe the monastery's overall reaction to having the film made was "never again."

Mary Liz said...

Yes, I fell asleep...I hang my head in shame.

I did wake up for the scene where the monks are "skiing" down the mountain. Everyone who was awake was laughing!

Paul Cat said...

I used parts of this video in my church history class when we were learning about monasticism. It was a riot watching 25 10th graders squirm at the lack of dialogue. I don't think they liked it too much.