The most calming, no make that contemplative experience to be found at next month's Wisconsin Film Festival will likely be during the Saturday morning screening of Die GroÃ?e Stille in the main room of the Orpheum Theatre. Also titled Into Great Silence, GrÃning immerses viewers for two hours and forty-two minutes amidst the rhythms of the monastery of Grand Chartreuse.
Nestled in a valley in a spur of the French Alps, the monastery was founded in 1084 by the German monk Saint Bruno of KÃln as the motherhouse for the Carthusian Order. Devoted strictly to a reclusive and contemplative life of prayer, and long battered though centuries of tumult in the Reformation and French Revolution, the monks are supported by their recipes for Chartreuse liqueurs and their monastery remains closed to visitors. How are viewers, then, able to experience a slice of life in a Charterhouse?The official festival description of this journey into silence provides more details about the documentary's twenty-year history:
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 GrÃning 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. GrÃning lived in the monks' quarters for six months -- filming their daily prayers, tasks, rituals and rare outdoor excursions. This transcendent, closely observed film seeks to embody a monastery, rather than simply depict one -- it has no score, no voiceover, and no archival footage. What remains is stunningly elemental: time, space and light.
Originally released in Germany in the fall of 2005, the documentary has screened and received acclaim at many of the highest-profile film festivals around the world, including Venice, Toronto, Rotterdam, and Sundance, where it won a special jury prize in 2006. Into Great Silence also won Best Documentary in the 2006 Bavarian Film Awards and the same in the 2006 European Film Awards. The official U.S. trailer for Into Great Silence follows below; there's no need to check if your sound is working.
A full-length trailer for the documentary is also available for viewing.
There are numerous reviews of Into Great Silence, including those published by Variety, the Village Voice, the A.V. Club, Jeff Reichert at indieWIRE, and Film Journal International; more at provided at Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic. More details about the documentary are also provided in its IMDB profile and Wikipedia entry. Into Great Silence was also recently featured in the PBS program Religion & Ethics Newsweekly.
The ninth annual Wisconsin Film Festival is scheduled for Thursday, Apr. 12 through Sunday, Apr. 15. Tickets are currently on sale.