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Leefstyl | Lifestyle > Geestelik | Spiritual > Kennisgewings | Notices

Exploring Consciousness presents - "Into the great silence" - A meditation on life.

Labia Cinema, Sunday 29 June 2008 - 2008-06-23

Exploring Consciousness presents - INTO GREAT SILENCE A meditation on life. A contemplation of time. Silence.

An internationally acclaimed documentary by Philip Gröning.
Germany/Switzerland 2007, very few subtitles

WHEN: Sunday 29 June 2008
WHERE: Labia Cinema on Orange: Tel 021-424 5927 ***Exclusively at the Labia***
TIME: 5.45pm (NB Note starting time)
COST: R35 includes a glass of Flagstone wine/fruit juice after screening Running time: 162 minutes


Nestled deep in the postcard-perfect French Alps, the Grande Chartreuse is considered one of the world's most ascetic monasteries. In 1984, German filmmaker Philip Gröning wrote to the Carthusian order for permission to make a documentary about them. They said they would get back to him.
Sixteen years later, they were ready. Gröning, sans crew or artificial lighting, lived in the monk's quarters for six months - filming their daily prayers, tasks, rituals and rare outdoor excursions. This transcendent, closely observed film seeks to embody a monastery, rather than simply depict one: it has no score, no voice-over and no archival footage. What remains is stunningly elemental: time, space and light. One of the most mesmerising and poetic chronicles of spirituality ever created, INTO GREAT SILENCE dissolves the border between screen and audience with a total immersion into the hush of monastic life. More meditation than documentary, it's a rare, transformative experience for all.

(And yes, the monastery is the source of the Chartreuse liqueurs)

Transcendent, transporting experience. LOS ANGELES TIMES Intoxicating. Enlarges your concepts of movies and life. CHICAGO TRIBUNE Breathtaking. NEWSWEEK Utterly spellbinding. NEW YORK TIMES


It's not easy. Not easy at all to write about a film that gets by with nearly no words, a film that is truly as far away from language as a film can be, and far, too, from any discursive processes.

How does one make a film that, more than depicting a monastery, becomes a monastery itself? How? I only know that at some point, this film took on form, became a monastery space and not a narrative. Altogether I spent nearly six months in the monastery of Grande Chartreuse. I took part in the life there, in the daily routine and lived like a monk in a cell. I took part in the incredible balance between seclusion and community. I shot a film there, recorded sound, edited. A voyage into silence.


The sole elements of language apart from the brief moments in which the monks speak to one another - as they do during their weekly chapters and their weekly walks - are verses, some of which are repeated throughout the film. In the life of a contemplative monk, the same prayers and psalms keep reappearing again and again. His entire life. Contemplation as the ever-new view upon the same. Just as the prayer changes meaning during the life of a monk - gaining deeper meaning, losing meaning and regaining it - these verses trigger a similar effect with the viewer: insight through repetition.

The film shows the changing of time, seasons and the oft-repeated elements of the day, of the prayer. Faces: an intense close-up of each monk. A very physical world (a cut apple, meals brought to the cells, the shaving of heads). The monks praying. The physical world and the turning away from that world.


Every midnight at 12.15am the monks of the Grande Chartreuse leave their cells in the deep dark to meet and sing matins and laudes: up to three hours of oration, psalms, lectures and deep silence. A great, intimate time of inner reflection and outer ritual. For nearly six months I shared this experience with the monks.

During these long and often very cold hours I realised that these same psalms, lessons, prayers have been sung here, in this same place, for nearly 1,000 years. This was continuity well beyond imagination. The "Nocturno" felt to me like the core of Carthusian life and spirituality. Completely free of everyday functionality, the Nocturno expresses the focus of the Carthusian order: contemplation.