Monday, November 20, 2006

Die Grosse Stille

I`m delighted to be able to report that there was a full house at the Tyneside cinema last night for the North East premier of this film. I met two other priests and a nun from the diocese there too. I suppose in the 1950`s it would have been difficult to see the screen for the rows of nuns wimples, assuming they would have been allowed to go to the cinema! The three hours flew by. This is a beautiful film and an interesting insight into the life of the Carthusians of La Grande Chartreuse. The monastery itself, as the headquarters of the order was more austere than I expected when compared to the Charterhouse of Granada for example. I was interested that no reference was made to the Chartreuse liqueur, which I thought was made there, nor to the motto of the order about never being reformed because never deformed.
One of my favourite scenes was in the first recreation sequence when discussion arose over whether to continue the tradition of the monks washing their hands before entering the refectory. Some were in favour of dropping the practice. Indeed it was remarked that in one monastery they hadn`t washed their hands in twenty years! One monk said that rather than questions the symbols of monastic life they should let the symbols question them. I thought that was good and hoped it was a young monk who said it. (It was impossible to see who was talking at that point.) There were some insights into the interior life of the monk, mostly by the repetition of the quotation from Jeremiah 20.7. The reading of the rule in the refectory was a useful way to explain some aspects of the routine.
All in all if you haven`t seen this film it is well worth going to see.


Alnwickian said...

I was also at the showing at the Tyneside. Who knows, we may have been sitting next to each other! I agree this was a fascinating film although I found the lack of structure to it frustrating. I found it impossible to work out where we were, what hour we were at or even, sometimes, what time of the year we were in. The one brief glimpse of Mass was very odd - the monks gathered in a circle, some of them receiving communion in the hand. The cavorting in the snow was fantastic as was the old blind monk explaining what was needed for happiness. Except... the general impression of this film was not of happiness but of grim frustration. How many smiles were to be seen?

Fr Michael Brown said...

I suppose the lack of structure may have been meant to give a more immediate impression of life in the monsatery, rather than have a narrative. The seasons gave some shape to it. At least the Mass appeared to be ad orientem but the idea of standing in a circle for communion I have seen in other monasteries. I think I`ve seen it at Mount St Bernard. I wasn`t that worried about the lack of smiles: I thought there were enough. Monastic life is a serious business and the emphasis was on an inner search for God.