The amazing film about life amongst the near-silent Carthusian monks at La Grande Chartreuse monastery is being shown at the Edinburgh Festival this month.
Sadly it is impossible for me to get to see it - other end of the country and no money being the main constraints - but hopefully it will be out on DVD eventually if it gets enough good exposure.....
This extract is from a much longer article here, discussing the health benefits of silence, but I thought this bit merited special mention:
"Outside the monastery, in our attention-deficit society, silence is a rare but little- valued commodity: considered boring, blank, wasteful, pointless. By contrast, the Carthusian order, founded in 1084, defines its life as a long path whose sole purpose is contemplation (Psalm 46 offers the perfect soundbite: Be still and know that I am God).
The monks live in poverty, in small cells with straw beds, but pray and sing Gregorian chants together. They never sleep through the night. Three hours of sleep are followed by two to three hours of prayer, and by three hours of sleep again. Everyone has to wash his own clothes, work in the garden, cut wood and do his chores for the monastery. They are allowed to talk only if absolutely necessary while working, as well as during their Sunday walk together. It is the life of a hermit, but in a large community.
“When the monks talk, they really speak about things that matter to them,” says Groening, who captures the spiritual essence of monastic existence with long, pensive, beautiful shots: a cut apple sits in a wooden bowl; a bird soars through the high, empty valley. To develop his insight, he lived like a monk in a cell and joined their daily routine. “Only in complete silence, one starts to hear. Only when language resigns, one starts to see,” he says.
The film reflects the monks’ world: there is no music except the chants in the monastery, no interviews, no commentaries or explanations. “You cannot use language to describe a world that revolves so far beyond the realm of language,” says Groening. "
I really hope this film is available commercially soon ! Sounds wonderful.