Monday, January 01, 2007


Monks: Pie Iesu Domine, Dona Eis Requiem [bonk!] I'd love to say that I loved watching Philip Gröning's near-three hour documentary on the life of the Carthusian monks living in Chartreuse, France. It's one of those total immersion documentaries that either completely impresses you or bores you rigid. Like the fantastic documentary, OUR DAILY BREAD, Gröning provides no commentary and precious little editorialising. What we have is simply a lot of grainy, ill-shot 8mm video footage of the monks going about their daily lives: praying, chanting, making robes, cutting wood, reading, shovelling snow.....Most of this is carried out in silence if not in complete isolation and Gröning is clearly in the business of showing not telling. He believes that the best way to truly understand the self-discipline and beauty of such a life in search of the still small voice of God is to participate in it for a prolonged period.

To my mind, the documentary makes its point eloquenty in an hour and a half and then merely tests our patience. I had thought I would be the ideal audience member for this film: a lover of perversely demanding cinema; a Catholic to boot; and someone who frequently goes on retreat and finds great attraction in the monastic way of life. But even I found the documentary lacking in focus and repetitive. I suppose that lovers of the film will say that that is the point: the complete submission to God's will and the contemplative happiness allowed by such repetition.....I'm not so sure.

INTO GREAT SILENCE/DIE GROSSE STILLE played Toronto, Venice and Sundance 2006 where Philip Gröning won the Special Jury Prize. It has already opened in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, France and the UK. It opens in Australia on March 22nd 2007.

1 comment:

  1. ill-shot? you can't be serious - the shots are achingly beautiful - and all that filmed with a small dv cam