German filmmaker Philip Gröning wished to make a documentary about the Carthusian order of monks, so he wrote to the Grande Chartreuse monastery in the French Alps and asked permission to film the daily life of the Fathers. Sixteen years later, the order replied that he could live and film among them. Gröning's film Into Great Silence, almost 21 years in the making from time of conception to completed project, does not put the Carthusians under the microscope as so many other documentaries might — instead, it places you right in the monastery itself, a total immersion in an ancient way of life completely apart from the modern world. With no narrator, no artificial light sources, no music other than the chanting of the monks and great swaths of reverent silence, the film is a uniquely beautiful journey into a dreamlike world of asceticism that is both alien and compelling. Seemingly inspired by the monks' own sense of time's inexorable passage, Into Great Silence drifts without meandering, moving at a contemplative, stately pace. Into Great Silence screens at 4 p.m. in the auditorium of the Saint Louis Art Museum in Forest Park (314-721-0072 or www.slam.org); tickets are $3 to $5, and a free performance by the choir of Christ Church Cathedral takes place in the Grigg Gallery immediately — or thereabouts — afterward.
Fri., Dec. 21, 2007