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    Friday, March 10, 2006

    the Sound of Silence

    Newsweek, of all folks, has a nice article on the monks of the Carthusian
    Order and a movie coming out that would make a nice DVD Christmas present.

    link speak with German filmmaker Philip Gröning about filming "Into Great Silence," a new documentary in which he followed the monks' everyday activities for six months. "These are some of the most cheerful, happy and healthy people I've ever seen," says Gröning . "I still keep in touch with them by e-mail." Wait—e-mail? "Christian monks are very strict, but they're also very pragmatic," he explains. "Of course the prior has e-mail. It helps them keep their silence."

    An even greater surprise is the fact that "Into Great Silence" is being played at movie theaters at all. Gröning first requested permission to make the film 17 years ago, but was flatly turned down. Through regular contact with the order, Gröning was eventually allowed to make the film as long as he came alone, wouldn't use artificial light and wouldn't add commentary or music to the final product.

    The result, which is just shy of three hours, should be mind-crushingly boring, but it's getting rave reviews. In Germany, it's playing to packed theaters, much like "March of the Penguins" did last year in the States. "It's shot with a great deal of beauty and without condescension," says Jay Weissberg, a Europe-based film reviewer for Variety. "I actually found that the film passed by more quickly for me than 'King Kong' did."

    There's little more than two minutes of dialogue in the entire film, but the natural sounds of monastic life—tolling bells, chants and the lighting of candles—effectively captures the rhythm of the monks' routine, which consists almost entirely of prayers and chores. Without the benefit of a voice-over, the viewer is left to take in Gröning 's breathtaking images and to ponder what it's like to live a life of utter religious devotion.

    The film's not entirely austere. One monk is repeatedly caught whispering conversationally to his cats—a complete violation of the rules. In another scene, the monks sled down a mountainside, chortling with glee.

    Before the movie started making its way through the film-festival circuit (it gets its U.S. debut at Sundance at the end of the month), Gröning arranged a screening for the monks. "They found a lot of humor in it," Gröning says. "In the end, they applauded a lot and they made me a very small statue, which is on my desk, of a Carthusian in the form of an Oscar."

    link to a nice Carthusian site with music

    Did I mention that their founder, St. Bruno, is my Confirmation Saint?

    With such a great model, how did I ever get so messed up? Mea culpa


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