The two-disc DVD release of Into Great Silence is out. If you haven’t seen this luminous film about life in a Carthusian monastery, now you have no excuses. If you want to read my review of the film, click here. Meanwhile, I’ll mention that one of the things I love this most about this film is its lack of voice-over narration. The director allows his simple, unadorned footage to tell the story. In doing so, the sense of distance between viewer and subject is lessened, if not erased altogether. In viewing this film, you will not merely watch the contemplative life like some sort of mystical spectator. Rather, the simple silence (punctuated only by the normal ambient noises of life, such as a meowing cat or the sound of an ax chopping wood) simply draws you in. For a little over two and a half hours, you (as the viewer) are virtually integrated — as much as is possible with a film — into the silence that characterizes the life of the monk. Sure, it’s only a film and once it’s done, you can walk away from it unmoved. But the potential is there for the silence to be more than merely observed: it can be encountered, embraced, enjoyed. And in this unexpected space, perhaps it could even change your life.
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About Carl McColman
Author of Befriending Silence, The Big Book of Christian Mysticism, Answering the Contemplative Call, and other books. Retreat leader. Speaker. Professed Lay Cistercian.