How patient are you? When you go to an art museum do you like to stand and absorb the painting, or catch a quick glance and move on? How you answer that question will likely determine your response to this film.
I’ll admit it took me four attempts before I watched the almost three hours (2:41) of film. I finally realized I had to be patient and pay attention. I couldn’t iron and watch, or balance my checkbook and watch, or make cookies and watch. I needed to quiet myself. I had to be still. Once I was properly oriented, I loved this movie.
The Grande Chartreuse monastery in the French Alps is considered among the most ascetic of monasteries. The monks take a vow of silence (with times to talk allowed at limited times and places). They live a life of solitude among brothers. Whether or not you believe this is the best way to worship God, there is much to be gained from joining them for the duration of this film.
The documentary has no voice overs, no background music, no artificial lighting. The cinematography is exquisite in its simplicity and minimalism. Sunlight on wood, praying in the dark morning, preparing food, repairing a shoe — all display profound beauty. The extra-long takes allow time to focus.
Or, the extra-long takes might put you to sleep. My son’s only comment as he walked by was “Gripping.”
But as the film ended, my prominent thought was “Be still and know that I am God.” I was challenged at how little silence I allow in my life. Media have brought noises to every corner of our daily living. I enjoy listening to music, sermons, audio books, my family’s conversation. But I need more time to listen to the quiet. An occasional season of silence.
If I was teaching the Middle Ages, this movie would be required watching. As it is, I would really like to see it again with my husband next to me. I think we will have to wait to snuggle up on a Sunday evening in January…