Into Great Silence
(Die Grosse Stille)
Søren Kierkegaard wrote: "The present state of the world and the whole of life is diseased. If I were a doctor and were asked for my advice, I would reply: Create silence! The Word of God cannot be heard in the noisy world of today. And even if it were blazoned forth with all the panoply of noise so that it could be heard in the midst of all the other noise, then it would no longer be the Word of God. Therefore create Silence."
Philip Gröning's transcendent work of pure documentary creates silence—not just absence of noise, but inner stillness. An odyssey, or perhaps a pilgrimage, into a world of silence, the Grande Chartreuse monastery in the French Alps, head monastery of the Carthusian order, where Gröning received unprecedented permission to spend half a year filming, living with the monks and observing in both senses of that word their rigorous way of life, from their discipline of silence to their grueling routine of prayer, work and sleep. Working alone, using only available light, he shot for approximately three hours a day, eventually amassing over 120 hours of material.
Ultimately, Into Great Silence reveals itself to be about nothing less than the presence of God. So many spiritually aware films--The Seventh Seal, Crimes and Misdemeanors—are about God's absence or silence. Here is a film that dares to explore the possibility of finding God, of a God who is there for those who seek him with their whole hearts. This life is not for us, perhaps, yet it isn't something irrelevant or unrelated either. The silence of the monks has something to say to us, if we have ears to hear.