Into Great Silence

You'll be nearly 20 minutes into this film before you hear any human voices. Those that break the silence then are raised in chant, emerging from a dark space referenced visually by a lone candle. It's five more minutes before we hear speech: "What do you ask for?" an abbot inquires of two supplicants prostrate before him in an austere chapel. "Grace," they answer, and are bid to rise. There's not much more to hear in the subsequent two hours of Philip Gr”nings contemplative, serene, and unique film -- except of course for the aural richness of "silence" itself: footfalls, door-creaks, the antics of the wind, the whisperings of spring rain and the heavy beat of drips from melting icicles. This abstemious "soundtrack"?without voice-overs, interviews, or musical scoring?complements the visual allure of the imagery, alternately routine and breathtaking, which details the slow unfolding of the works and days of the Carthusian monks of the Grand Chartreuse monastery, which has existed in the same spot in a desolate Alpine valley for nearly 1,000 years. Charting their ascetic lives for six months, Gr”ning composes a rare and respectful portrait of their pious efforts to create a quiet quotidian labor that blends into the hush of eternity. --

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