I don’t know if it’s what bell hooks had in mind when she wrote Teaching to Transgress, but Lauren Winner and I engaged in a bit of pedagogical usurpation at Fuller Seminary. With no introduction other than saying that we were showing a film, we sat down after lunch on Friday and pushed play on Into Great Silence.
Filmed at the motherhouse of the Carthusian Order, Into Great Silence follows a group of monks who practice silence except for singing the daily office and a brief time of conversation on Sunday. The film itself is an immersion experience into silence — it’s not what the unprepared viewer expects from a film.
Our class had varying reactions, from feelings of inner peace, to experiences of anger that lingered for a couple days afterward. It was, ultimately, a galvanizing experience for the class and provoked a great deal of fruitful conversation.
My own experience of the film was an ultimately positive one. At first, I battled the fidgets, then I battled sleepiness. But by about the 40-minute mark, the film — which I had not previously seen — had drawn me in. I was absorbed by it, and I didn’t look at my watch again, even as we approached the 3-hour mark.
It’s a great film that I highly recommend. And I encourage you to really give yourself over to it if you watch it — allow this film to embrace you.