Tricycle Film Club

Buddhist films and discussion for the
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Into Great Silence

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This month's Tricycle Film Club, available for Tricycle Supporting and Sustaining members, is presented in partnership with BuddhaFest film festival (June 14-17 in Washington, D.C.). Not a Supporting or Sustaining member? Sign up here.

For the next two weeks at the Tricycle Film Club we will be showing Philip Groening's Into Great Silence, an elegant look into life at La Grande Chartreuse, a Roman Catholic monastery in the French Alps home to the monks and nuns of the Carthusian Order. High in the mountains, these men and women live a life of enduring silence, contemplation, and solitude, supporting themselves by brewing the green liquor chartreuse.

In 1984, Groening approached the inhabitants of La Grande Chartreuse to ask if he could make a film documenting daily life there.

Sixteen years later, they responded.

Groening could film them, but with provisions: First, that he come alone. Second, that he must live by the rules of the monastery while filming. And third, that he must not add in artificial light, music, or commentary during the editing process.

The final result, Groening's Into Great Silence, has almost no dialogue. Instead of words, it speaks through the natural sounds within and surrounding the monastery, the prayer rituals of those inside, and of course, silence itself.

To watch the film, sign up to be a Supporting or Sustaining member of Tricycle here.

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scott.plummer's picture

Wonderful

mel_sweetnam's picture

I loved this beautifully filmed immersion into the life of the Chartreuse monastics. There were some particularly lovely scenes - the care being given to the elderly monk's skin, raindrops and ripples, the monks playing in the snow on the mountainside. While the length may be difficult for those of us inculcated in sound bite mass media culture, I still think this film could find a wider audience if it could include translations/sub-titles in other languages. I have some French, but not enough to have understood everything spoken by the elderly monk at the end. In particular he said something about the world having forgotten something about God and what a shame that is - can anyone translate fully what he said? "le monde a perdu <???> de Diue - c'est dommage". Thank you for posting this very beautiful film, and I'm gladdened to see that the upcoming film festival will also include stories of women's monastic experiences.

kuukan's picture

Wonderful! It helps us realize that enlightment, God, or whatever you call it, is just way too big and omnipresent to be restrict to only one spiritual tradition.

"You have seduced me, Oh Lord; And I have allowed myself to be seduced."

Gasshô

Dominic Gomez's picture

The universe...life itself is "just way too big and omnipresent". And each human being is a microcosm of it.

michaeljohnson's picture

So nice! An welcome opportunity for me not only to see the images, but also to understand a little more about my secular and spiritual self through the thoughts and reactions I experience, in the silence, while watching.

paul6316's picture

This is a wonderful film, and I'm very happy that you posted it.

Blythegatewood's picture

I loved this. I watched it over a couple of days, whenever I could catch a few minutes here and there between my own household tasks and caring for my family. Watching it this way kept the Carthusian way in my mind and I found that my everyday drudgery could take on a monastic feeling if I brought attention and love to it like the monks. I often wish I was in a monastery rather than my messy, busy house, but now I think I can be monastic in the silent, solitary moments of everyday life.

On a different note, I just loved the scene when the new monks get accepted into the community with hugs. Some were just so warm and expressive, even without words. Beautiful. And of course the sledding scene was just a delight.

noelleimparato's picture

Beautiful film. I love the simplicity of it all. The beauty of silence and simplicity. I love the Gregorian chants. I was brought up with Gregorian chants and it's amazing how 50 years later the hymns still sound so familiar. I was surprised though to not see the monks busy with the making of their famous Chartreuse. And do the monks really live with nuns as mentioned above? Usually Catholic monasteries are very much segregated. Men in one, women in another. In any case I have not seen any nun in the film, although I must admit I moved the curser forward several times. 2hr40min is a bit long.

mel_sweetnam's picture

Hello Noelle, the monks and nuns don't live together. At Grande Chartreuse, as well as at some of the other Carthusian monasteries, there are both female and male monastics, but living/practicing in separate parts of the refuge/facility. The only time they generally come into contact with one another is when a male priest visits the nuns to perform certain ceremonies (since women are still denied ordination as priests). There is a website for the order, if you're interested in further information: http://www.chartreux.org/

outsicktoday's picture

I found that I have trouble watching this for too long. Maybe because it's late at night, but I think it has more to do with the lower intensity of sensory data in the film relative to everyday householder life. Very calming and further evidence that modern life is filled with an overabundance of empty information that we define as "real".

No mass media 24 hour coverage, no drama, none of the eight worldly concerns (pleasure-pain, fame-shame, loss-gain, praise-blame). Just simplicity. Also a great example that spirituality isn't about any particular brand name or label ascribed to it.

Stunning by omission.....

robertomainetti's picture

beautiful

jackelope65's picture

Watching this film represented a deep meditation for me. The monks live a mindful life without the distraction of idle chatter, although I wonder if their pursuit of afterlife/enlightenment extends beyond the walls of their concealment.

worthmoremusic's picture

....much enjoyed this very sacred and beautifully shot film.... I have always had much respect and admiration for monastics and their deep, abiding commitment to the spiritual.

"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....

Thank you, Merci Beaucoup, and Danke' Philip Gröning and Tricycle for sharing this stunning documentary with us !

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