New York Magazine


Into Great Silence (Die Grosse Stille)
  Release Date: 02/28/07


Director: Philip Groening

Rating: (NR)
  Running Time
  164 min
  Zeitgeist Films
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For this extraordinary documentary, German filmmaker Philip Gröning spent six months living in the Grand Chartreuse monastery in the French Alps, where ascetic monks live most of their lives without speaking. Gröning lives with them and films them without artificial light or a crew—and whether he's so unobtrusive or the monks are so devoutly focused, the filmmaker barely seems to disturb them. The result is pin-drop vérité, and it creates a surprising sort of meditative suspense as you watch these men—not to mention a certain sense of kinship, as you watch, silent as ever, in the dark.

Nestled deep in the postcard-perfect French Alps, the Grande Chartreuse is considered one of the world's most ascetic monasteries. In 1984, German filmmaker Philip Groning wrote to the Carthusian order for permission to make a documentary about them. They said they would get back to him. Sixteen years later, they were ready. Groning, sans crew or artificial lighting, lived in the monks' quarters for six months--filming their daily prayers, tasks, rituals and rare outdoor excursions.