Into Great Silence 

Directed by Philip Gröning

This film is asking a lot of its viewers. To remain seated and attentive for all 162 minutes of its running time while a life of sparse submission to matters spiritual (thus unseen and largely unseeable) is depicted, requires attention spans that one isn’t apt to find in ready supply in this day and this age. This very large caveat notwithstanding, the film, set within the walls of a monastery in the French Alps, is — when the viewer and filmmaker connect — often astounding. Filmed with only natural light and sound (both in meager supply) the film is almost by necessity, first and foremost about a technical and artistic challenge. That this challenge mirrors the quest of the men who have decided to forego all material possessions to enter an 11th-century monastery will occur to you, at some point, I’m sure. But with all those silent, still moments aching to be filled by our overactive imaginings, many other thoughts will probably occur to you as well — many of which have nothing to do with this film. Classically painterly in its visual style, as well as its intent at elevating its subject matter, Gröning employs a sort of video pointillism, not without success. Still, it’s asking an awful lot.

Opens  February 28 at Film Forum


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