Into Great Silence - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Into Great Silence Reviews

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July 1, 2011
Interested in seeing the documentary work put into this, not necessarily the film itself.
June 20, 2011
A documentary that simply and profoundly observes the stillness and silence of monastery. The film subtlely parallels the tremendous sacrifice made on-screen for spiritual fulfillment and off-screen for the sake of creating art.
May 24, 2011
An amazing documentary about the carthusian order of monks; which details their daily life and devotion amongst an environment of near silence and solitude. With little to no dialogue, the film paints an accurate picture of the pursuit and path towards peace and purity of heart. 4 stars for the unique subject matter and the simple way it is effectively conveyed.
½ April 5, 2011
A unique experience to be sure that is not going to captivate everyone, but to be sure it will captivate some. It's a grand undertaking and a truly interesting journey by director Philip Groening in attempting to document life in what is referred to as "one of the world's most ascetic monasteries". Initially turned down in his request to enter in to their community and film their daily routines, 16 years later Groening recieves a phone call that allows him access to film for the duration of a year. And so what we get here is a truly realistic picture of what happens within the walls of this monastery, and perhaps one of the most honest pictures of every day monastic life we might ever find outside of journeying through it ourselves.

This film requires patience, make no mistake about it. And it should be noted that this might not be so much a masterpiece of film making as it is about the experience yourself. And I guess the question is whether you can enter in to that and how you enter in to that which will define what you take away from this. The film seems to bounce around from truly inspirational and humorous (see recreational activities and casual moments of conversation) to what feels to be a completely mundane and arduous viewing process. And this is the true wonder of this documentary is the way that this viewing process is most certainly intended to mimic the reality of the monastic life itself, a life that works hard to set its feet firmly in discipline so as to find true revelation in the midst of the every day and mundane.

One of the most awe inspiring aspects of this film is recognizing how these dedicated monks have given their lives to praying on our behalf. They are in the trenches doing the daily work that many of us fail to do even in small amounts in a given week. It is a true sacrifice, and one that they give their lives to. And that is a humbling experience to say the least and something we all could probably aspire to in some sense.

I must confess that my own experience with this went up and down. Yes, I found it long. I found it dragged certainly in moments. I nodded off a few times. But there were a few truly inspiring moments that made this worth it in the end. To call this an amazing film though would probably feel like I am simply giving a film a great rating on the fact that is different than the status quo. Into Great Silence is what it is. It's a rare glimpse in to a life that is sure to b foreign to most of us. It's not a film so much as it is a chance to see that and take away from it what you will. And so any final verdict on this will depend on the head space of the viewer, their sense of inspiration in the moment, and perhaps what they are able to take away from it in a particular given viewing according to their own experience.
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.
November 27, 2010
The opportunity to look into the otherworldly lives of these monks is a wonderful opportunity. Groning mixes silence with images of stark (and occasionally lush) beauty in and around the monastery. That said, the best moments in the film are those when we get to hear the monks speak, due in part I think to the lack of real formal structure to the piece. This sense of randomness in most of the sequencing and editing seems to be at odds with the strictly regimented lives of the monks themselves.
September 1, 2010
Filmmaker Philip Gr├Âning asked the monastery at Grande Chartreuse if he could film there. 16 years later, they granted the request, on the grounds that there be no music, no narration, and no artificial lighting. The result is as quiet and meditative as the monastery itself. It's a unique piece of work, but it certainly has its drawbacks. Although there are a few interesting bits (the monks aren't quite as austere and spartan as you might expect) for the most it's pretty much exactly what you would expect it to be. It's basically the cinematic equivalent of new age music... unless you want to spend the time just reflecting, reading a description of the movie is a fair substitute for watching it. But Gr├Âning definitely achieved what he set out to do, and the film does allow for a lot of reflection if that's what you're looking for. And I must say that even as a diehard atheist, I have respect for those willing to devote themselves so completely to their delusions.
August 5, 2010
S├│lo con saber la historia de la filmaci├│n de este documental vale la pena. Un a├▒o para su realizaci├│n! Es una mirada al monasterio de los cartujos: la orden religiosa que se rige por el silencio total durante el dia que solo se interrrumpe para la oracion comunitaria. Es para verla con calma y paciencia. No hay narracion, no hay musica. Es solo observar y escuchar el sonido del silencio. Gano varios premios internacionales. No es facil adquirirla en Mexico.
½ July 5, 2010
LETTERBOX. Sabiamente transparente y hermosamente presentada, sin mucho ßnimo de intromisiˇn indebida o excesiva. / Wisely transparent and beautifully presented, without much unbecoming or excessive obtrusiveness.
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.
March 27, 2010
This movie -- in its simplicity and immersion into the daily life of the Carthusian monks -- was like going on a retreat. I watched it in twenty minute segments... struck by the sense of beauty in a solitude that is lived in the presence of God. The fact that this film was largely without words allowed the audience to experience the life of this community in a way that no commentary would have revealed.
January 30, 2010
This seems to be an attempt at making a "pure" documentary, a documentary that merely observes. Obviously the very act of filming, especially of filming monks, changes things immensely. This is successful in the sense that we do appear to get at the real monks, and their lives. It is fascinating to see people punish themselves like this. But the film is far far too long. I get it. I get that he is trying to convey what a mostly silent life is like. But dammit, I got it an hour into the film.
January 12, 2010
You'll be transplanted in one of the quietest habitated place into the french mountains, daily monks activities, neutral cool colors, the only sounds are tools moving, gregorian chants, the heart beats slower, what captures is that every action is into the right now and actually creates a sense of enjoyment in picturing even the most banal action (dish washing, writing, reading, playing with cats).
Eventually the movie grows into boring (or a pacefull spiritual almost sleep state if you like) . Ah, the the sentences screened that are repeated through gave me a sense of sponsorization or branding , anyone else feel the same?
January 4, 2010
Incredibly moving depiction of an otherworldly life - I like to watch this one whenever I am feeling frazzled and remember what it is like just to live.
January 3, 2010
I had varying impressions of this extremely long and unique film as I watched different parts of it. In the beginning, I struggled not to switch it off, and felt that watching the daily lives of ascetic monks was about as entertaining as watching paint dry. In the middle, I started to have a lot of questions in my head, which at least gave me something to think about in place of dialogue- such as, why did these men become monks? Do they ever get to see their family members again, if they have any? Who pays for the monastery's upkeep and food? And what happens if they become very ill, such as at the end of their lives, and need special care? Do they go to the hospital? Towards the end, I really started to feel angry. Okay, sure, they are ascetic monks, and they sacrifice all earthly pleasures and conveniences to live a stark life of religious devotion. I admire that. But if they are religious, then surely they must care about the suffering of other people. I think ultimately it is a bit selfish of them to waste all of that manpower on themselves and their small community, when they could be using it to help people in the outside world. They may be depriving themselves, but they are also removing themselves from all the messy complications that all the rest of us have to deal with. To think of all the good they could do if they went out to help poor people, or kids, or something...
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 Gr÷ning, 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 Gr÷ning 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 gro▀e 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.
½ October 4, 2009
Into Great Silence was quite the film. When I first saw the trailer for this film, I thought it looked fascinating. Then, I heard it was a near 3-hour film about monks and almost entirely silent. Needless to say, I felt reserved. Even as a spiritual person I didn't know if I could find myself captivated for that long with that type of a movie. I was wrong. The near 3-hour run time felt more like an average 2-hour film, even with its slow pace and silence. This film was beautiful in two different ways. First of all, many of the shots were fantastic. Groning used natural lighting and found ways to capture many darkly lit scenes in ways that were incredible. Also, his edited shot selection was great. The biggest visual downfall were the many grainy shots. I was disappointed with those and found myself wishing the entire film was shot with a clear lens. Regardless, that was not enough keep me from enjoying this film.

The second beautiful aspect of this film was its spirituality. Knowing that these men have willingly chosen this path for their lives and seeing their passion (although in a very relaxed and focused way) unfold on-screen was powerful. It's a life I know I could never lead, but I have respect for those who can. I can not honestly recommend this movie to everyone. I think it will take a certain kind of film fan to enjoy this movie. Keep in mind that it's a slow-paced, very quiet film before seeing it. But also note that the visuals and spiritual aspects are well worth watching.
October 2, 2009
If you watch this film on fast forward, you miss everything. It needs to bee watched in silence, in order to get the experience. Great work!
September 24, 2009
I remember never being in an audience that was that quit or attentive!
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.
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