Movie review | 'Into Great Silence' offers look into monastery

  • Article by: JEFF STRICKLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 29, 2007 - 4:22 PM

** out of four stars

Rated Not rated. Where: Lagoon.

Those so inclined might see this insider's look at life in a monastery as the cinematic equivalent of transcendental meditation. But other viewers are likely to consider this nearly three-hour, nearly soundless documentary as a chance to catch up on their sleep.

German filmmaker Philip Gröning does a marvelous job of immersing the audience in the daily life at Grande Chartreuse, the head monastery of the reclusive Carthusian Order in France. The monks pray, do chores, pray, eat lunch and pray some more, mostly in complete silence. They are allowed to chant some of their prayers, but they can speak only for two hours on Sunday afternoons. And to ensure that we get the full effect of the silent treatment, there is no musical soundtrack.

To call it repetitive is an understatement. Soon our eyes glaze over and the whole thing becomes a looped blur. There are occasional moments that snap us back to attention; who would have imagined that taking a vow of poverty doesn't include having to give up bottled water? Then again, this movie isn't a good time for giving up caffeine, either.

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