Into Great Silence - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Into Great Silence Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ June 24, 2008
[font=Century Gothic]"Into Great Silence" is a nearly wordless documentary about the Grande Chartreuse Monastery in France(Instead of talking heads, there are silent heads.) where monks go to be closer to god, away from secular influences and most material comforts.(The only electrical appliance is an electric razor used to shave heads.) But the monks do go for the occasional walk and one talks of going to Seoul.[/font]

[font=Century Gothic]All of which had the potential to be a fascinating documentary had it not been so long.(An interminable 162 minutes, by the way.) At epic length, it stretches the material to the breaking point, so most of it just seems random and redundant.(Some of the quotes definitely are.) And it would have been a nice touch if the camera had followed the two novices we first see at an initiation ceremony and gotten a feel as to how they adjust to the unique surroundings. Like one monk says, not all are accepted nor all are suited to the life.[/font]
Super Reviewer
August 30, 2009
I'm sure to many people this would have a great religious value, but I thought it was really boring. I just watched the whole thing on fast forward and I don't think I missed anything. I enjoyed watching the monks slide down snowy hills...that's about it.
Super Reviewer
July 25, 2007
Mesmerising. It really draws you into the patterns of monastery life.
March 4, 2011
I had to watch this for a theology class in high school. While the filming is great, watching the movie puts you to sleep. Silence is the key word.
June 27, 2009
At 2 hours and forty-two minutes this documentary, which unfolds in almost complete silence, takes a bit of mental endurance to sit through. I figured if people can live their whole life like this, I could give up a few hours. This doc about monks living in a French monestary really gives a feel of what their lives are like. A lot of shuffling around, doing chores, and praying. Although successful on that aspect, because there is no narration this doc leaves you wanting to know why these people chose this life, how they divy up their duties and why they do the rituals they do. I don't recommend watching this movie with someone that has little patience, like my wife.
January 5, 2008
Soley for the beautiful footage. It's a wonderful insight into this world. But just as the title states, silent! This would not be for everyone. You need a good attention span to watch and appreciate it. For the true documentary lover only.
November 11, 2007
That title ain't lyin'! I'd probably only recommend this to the hardcore documentary lover, but if you are of that stock you're really going to enjoy this. There is no narration, we don't really get to know the individual monks in the monastery, and as the title says, there's not much in the way of sound. Some chanting, a few snatches of dialogue, some rare laughter, but mostly just the sounds of a life without words. The shots of the monastery and its surroundings in the mountains are beautiful. This is total immersion into the monk experience, a real treat.
August 31, 2007
Deeply meditative film that plunges us directly into monastic life. The natural lighting of the cinematography alone makes this a remarkable film.
½ July 18, 2007
A beautiful film...that takes a lot of patience to sit through and once you're there you want to see it through...I have a theory about 3 hour films that everyone raves about...Stockholm Syndrome...not that the film doesn't deserve the praise... it does...but just think about it.
½ June 3, 2007
I don't recommend this unless you are really into the art of cinema or photography. The frames, angles, lighting, set up's are brilliant, and although it really is THREE hours of GREAT SILENCE (sans a few prayers), after watching it I felt some sense of fulfillment. It really is amazing for what it is, but it is not meant to be entertaining really, and I'd recommend seeing it in a theater
March 28, 2007
An observational documentary that fully captures the life of the Grande Charteuse monks. The pace of life, the silence, the natural beuty that they are surrounded by, the seperation for modern life. The cinematography and the editing both work to give the viewer a sense of this life. It is not only well executed but it is moving, and spiritually enlightening
July 5, 2014
If you can manage the almost-three hour running time, you may find this pensive documentary to your liking.
July 20, 2013
What Gröning did is quite an accomplishment. It's so interesting to watch what the monks do on an everyday basis. I found it fascinating, although not very easy to watch. The (as I recall, maybe I'm wrong) last scene, where the monks are in the mountain, ABSOLUTELY CAPTIVATED me, since it reminds you, after all you have seen at that point, what they are, and the enormous gap between "use" and "them" suddenly becomes a lot shorter.
½ December 28, 2012
Considering the title it is a noisy film with the clatter of the day to day life in the monastery an enigma! But it is true to life. A haunting film that grasps you and drags you into their lives. The " still small voice of God" proclaimed in the first scenes clearly speak to these men through the clamour.

Life changing if you let it!
½ November 24, 2012
as i read through abunch of wonderous reviews I found the only one out of place being someone who said this film is like "watching paint dry"...i thought I would prove them wrong and agree with the rest of the reviews. After 14 minutes though- i found myself watching the lights of my laptop reflect off my wall or watching my second computers defragment process tick away. This just wasnt interesting at all, its artsy and I'm sure the rest of the 3 hours were full of that...but still- really....i guess you need to be a monk to find any interest or someone whos really into wanting to be one....i am neither at this point.
January 27, 2012
They weren't kidding when they said "Into Great Silence." But seriously, the sledding down the mountain near the end was incredible and unexpected.
November 2, 2011
Wonderful. "The signs are not to be questioned, we are." A stunning vision of the sacramentality of all life. If you're still a Kantian afterward, you're mad!
½ July 1, 2010
While I understand the director's likely excitement at being the first non-order member to be allowed into the walls of this monestary and at that after nearly twenty years after first asking, three hours of silence but for bells, prayer and the short walk throgh the countryside, for we non-monks, may well count as penance.
October 7, 2009
High in the "Not for Everyone" Category

The Bible makes it quite clear that not everyone can live a life of praising God in the same way. Some are called in very different ways. Very, very few are called in this way--the total silence would drive me crazy, for one!--and so it seems entirely appropriate that a film of it would not appeal to everyone, either. It is true that this is a very long film. It's over two and a half hours, in fact. And, for the most part, it is silent or close to it. The only sounds are the natural sounds of the monastery--mostly the sounds of nature and the monks' sounds of praising God. There is no voiceover. There is no soundtrack. There is one scene in which the monks appear to be chatting almost casually, and indeed online references are contradictory about the existence of an actual vow of silence required by the order. Certainly these are men (there are some Carthusian nuns, but none at Grande Chartreuse) who do not speak lightly; even the chat they have is really about monastical issues--and, proving people are the same in many important ways, being snide that the Trappists aren't as strict as they themselves are.

Really, there is no story here. What we have here is Philip Gröning, a German filmmaker, traveling to perhaps the most famous monastery in the world, the monastery of Grande Chartreuse (yes, there's a colour called chartreuse, yes, it's named after an alcoholic beverage, and yes, the monks are the ones who make it; the special features include a one hour documentary on the subject I didn't bother to watch), taking with him only a camera. He spent months living there with the monks, presumably himself abiding by their rules of silence. (Be it vow or tradition.) Indeed, he is essentially the only outsider to enter the monastery grounds in a very long time; they used to accept visitors and now no longer do. As such, there is no story here. There is no structure to the documentary as we think of it. It is almost a string of images, bereft of context, which just take in what it is like in this place, so distant from the modern world--though one monk does talk of traveling to Seoul.

Obviously, we never learn anything of these men. A few of them talk a little; there is that brief discussion of hand-washing and how the Trappists are hopelessly decadent in their six-basin monastery. There is, of course, prayer, hymns, and the Bible. All of these men are there for a reason, not least the filmmaker, but without dialogue, without voiceover, we do not and cannot know any of the stories. We see a pair of novices come to the monastery, but their eventual fate is not told. They are just now part of the population of silence and prayer. Oh, of course we see the men working, as they have worked for the nearly 950 years the monastery has been there, high and alone in the French Alps. There are still gardens to tend, after all. In order to glorify God, they must eat at least enough to survive--and there is the occasional ritual communal meal so that they remember that coming together is also praise for the Lord.

It probably helps, going in, to know something of at least the history of monasticism, if not the Carthusians in particular. The idea of monks living together for the greater glory of God goes back perhaps 1700 years, perhaps longer. This is especially true because a hermit is considered a type of monk. Arguably, this makes John the Baptist the first Christian monk. The Carthusian order in particular is essentially intended to be a group of hermits living in community, if that makes any sense. It's one of the reasons for the silence, actually. Alone in the wilderness, a hermit would only speak to God because there is only God to speak to. Not all monks observe this, of course; I knew a jolly Franciscan friar who occasionally preached at the 8:00 AM Sunday mass at St. Elizabeth's church (just barely) in Altadena, California. The Franciscans glorify God by working among the people; Blessed Frey Junipero Serra was a Franciscan. The Jesuits often run schools. But the Carthusians devote themselves to God and only benefit the common person by praying for humanity; the value of that, of course, depends on your worldview.

I will not decry your intelligence for not liking this film. I will not tell you to instead go watch Michael Bay movies. There are perfectly valid reasons that this film is simply not for everyone, and there's nothing wrong with that. It is very long, and there is no real plot. Some people wish there were, which I think is missing the point of the film. The point, as I see it, is not to tell us a story but to show us a world. Where it gets confusing is that we aren't looking at an ecosystem, which is where we normally expect this kind of thing. We are looking at humans, and humans have stories. Except, of course, that even stories about ecosystems tend to have narration. However, there is a reason for silence here. In order to grasp the realities of these men, there must be silence. Philip Gröning seems to me to be saying that, if you want to know the history of Carthusians or what have you, you should go look it up. If you want to know what it's like to be a Carthusian, 169 minutes of stillness is a good start. [i]Die große Stille[/i] is not for everyone; not everyone wants to dwell in that stillness even for that length of time. However, it is a very soothing film--even if it puts you to sleep, that's soothing of a kind.
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