Sunday, May 27, 2007

It was a such a pleasure to see Into Great Silence at the Chez Artiste in Denver yesterday. It's long. "Three hours, with trailers," said the guy at the ticket counter. At some point after the two-hour mark I bobbed in and out of wakefulness a few times. With the exception of some popcorn munchers (myself included) and a man across the aisle who kept talking (not whispering) into his wife's ear (who, to her credit, shushed him), the audience was as quiet as the monks on the screen. It was so quiet that at times we could hear the soundtrack of the movie playing in the theater next to us.

Most of the people there were elderly. A white-haired woman with a mobile oxygen supply was in the audience with her white-haired friend. I think I was the youngest one, and I'm thirty-seven. It's sad that apparently one's interest in otherworldly things exists generally only in proportion to one's proximity to death.

Jim Emerson's review of the movie is worth reading if you're wondering what the movie is about. Gröning spent six months living in the monastery, a film crew of one. His compositions of the monks and the monastery are masterful and gentle. Some of the lovely outdoor footage of the French Alps is presumably the work of the credited second crew.

If you have a chance to see this while it's playing in a theater, do so. Like Playtime, this is best experienced on a big screen – the bigger the better. Without that, the sense of the film being like a monastery, not just about a monastery, may not seize you.

Update: a load of Into Great Silence links, including one to an interview with Gröning, at GreenCine.