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Into Great Silence

Philip Groening's portrait of the Grande Chartreuse monastery in the French Alps thrills the senses even as it eschews outward sensation. An exquisite cinematic recreation of devotional space, the film employs superb craftsmanship in cinematography, composition, sound engineering, and design–together with a magnificent austerity–as structuring elements in the creation of a work of rare and rarefied beauty. The implied narrative is very simple: time passes. Men engage in chores, meals, and contemplation. Passages are felt with great profundity; however, as the seasons change, daily activities are repeated, and the aged commune with the very young. Only prayers and songs fill the monastery with spoken sound; this is otherwise a wordless world. But the screen and the soundtrack abound with life as various cycles play out audibly, each with its own rhythm, intensity, and tonal range (padding feet, the movement of tools and furniture, ringing bells). The film's special sensitivity to these traces is extraordinarily keen. Indeed, camera placement, duration of scenes, and the orchestration of delicate echoes render the film an experience more to be inhabited than witnessed, suggesting the inner life of things with tremendous power. This is an exceedingly powerful work of documentation, and of film art.--Sundance Film Festival
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Directed by: 
Philip Groening
Running Time: 
Screenplay by: 
Philip Groening

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