(aka "Into Great Silence" or "Le Grand Silence")

 

directed by Philip Groning
Germany 2005

 

In 1984, German director Philip Groning asked the Carthusian monks if he could shoot a documentary about them in their monastery up in the French Alps. Sixteen years later, the monks told Groning that they were ready for him. Sixteen years! I’m sure that, during those sixteen years, Herr Groning sometimes forgot that he was once interested in documenting the lives of such withdrawn men. Yet, Herr Groning got his wish, and he spent about half a year shooting footage of the monks as they went about their daily routines.

The monks don’t totally do without speaking, but they reserve their voices mainly for prayers and for calling out to animals that live on the same grounds. This extended silence helps the viewer appreciate the pleasures of both quietude and voices. During a winter scene, some of the monks venture outdoors to slide down hills. Their laughter while enjoying such a simple pleasure is a humbling reminder that it shouldn’t take much to stimulate our senses. Those of us who live in the “normal” world have been so bombarded with stimuli that we’re numb to the point of being out of touch with ourselves. Contrast our lives with those of the monks; a brief tug of gravity is enough to give them good cheer.

Herr Groning frequently cuts to straight-on shots of the monks looking right into the camera. They display a wide range of emotions, from shyness to defiance, from bemusement to annoyance, from reflection to observation. Experiencing these moments feels like looking at a minimalist painting or a mirror--you’re so intimate with an observed object that you find yourself thrust up against self-introspection. In more ways than one, Into Great Silence shows how shamefully wasteful most movies--and most people--are.

Yunda Eddie Feng

Posters

Theatrical Release: 10 November 2005 (Germany)

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DVD Review: Zeitgeist (2-disc) - Region 1 - NTSC

Big thanks to Yunda Eddie Feng for the Review!

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Distribution

Zeitgeist

Region 1 - NTSC

Runtime 162 min
Video

1.85:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 5.99 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate

Audio DD 5.1
Subtitles Optional English
Features Release Information:
Studio: Zeitgeist

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.85:1

Edition Details:
• Night Office
• Audio Gallery
• Photo Gallery
• Making-of Dossier
• The Carthusians
• Cardinal Poupard Statement

DVD Release Date: 23 October 2007
transparent slim double keepcase

Chapters 22

 

 

Comments:

Video:
The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen image was created from a mix of 8mm and high-def video footage. The 8mm film is very grainy and rough in general, and due to the use of existing light sources, the movie is frequently very dark. The best-looking (technically and aesthetically) shots were captured outdoors.

Audio:
Although encoded in DD 5.1, you get a very basic, minimal audio experience with this DVD as the director eschewed the use of a non-diegetic music score and audio effects that weren’t recorded at the monastery. Therefore, the rear speakers (and even the front mains) participate only when heavy winds or echoing voices are present.

Optional English subtitles support the audio and the on-screen text (mostly German and French).

Extras:
All of the disc-based extras are on Disc 2.

“Night Office” is a 53-minute recording of evening prayers. Herr Groning overlaid the monks’ chanting with images of the texts that the monks are reciting.

Next up are two galleries. The Audio Gallery is a collection of additional sounds recorded during production. The Photo Gallery is an assemblage of stills.

If you want to see more of the monks, then you’ll be delighted by the four additional scenes. The Making-of Dossier is a set of stills galleries and video footage that documents the long journey of making this movie. The Carthusians presents text and photo galleries of the monks’ history. Finally, you get the Cardinal Poupard Statement, which is video footage of a high-ranking church official praising the movie for showing how the monks exemplify devotion to faith.

--Miscellaneous--
As usual for Zeitgeist, you get a transparent keepcase (slim double for the two DVDs). An insert booklet provides liner notes, chapter listings, film credits, and DVD production credits.

 - Yunda Eddie Feng

 



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DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

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Zeitgeist

Region 1 - NTSC




 

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