Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Into Great Silence -Carthusian Order

I finally veiwed, with great anticipation, Into Great Silence. It was amazing. If you've not yet heard about this extraordinary film here is a synopsis.

In 1984, German filmmaker Philip Gröning wrote to the Carthusian order for permission to make a documentary about them. They said they would get back to him.

The Carthusian order's monastery is called Grande Chartreuse. It is considered one of the world’s most ascetic monasteries. Nestled deep in the French Alps, it is surreal in its beauty.

Sixteen years after asking permission to film, the Carthusian order told Gröning they were ready. Gröning, sans crew or artificial lighting, 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 voice over and no archival footage.
What remains is stunningly elemental: time, space and light. One of the most mesmerizing and poetic chronicles of spirituality ever created, INTO GREAT SILENCE dissolves the border between screen and audience with a total immersion into the hush of monastic life. More meditation than documentary, it’s a rare, transformative theatrical experience for all.

I did not want it to end. I felt like an honored guest.

Here is the description from the website: "The Grande Chartreuse, the mother house of the legendary Carthusian Order, is based in the French Alps. “Into Great Silence” will be the first film ever about life inside the Grande Chartreuse.

"Silence. Repetition. Rhythm.
The film is an austere, next to silent meditation on monastic life in a very pure form. No music except the chants in the monastery, no interviews, no commentaries, no extra material.

"Changing of time, seasons, and the ever repeated elements of the day, of the prayer. A film to become a monastery, rather than depict one. A film about awareness, absolute presence, and the life of men who devoted their lifetimes to god in the purest form. Contemplation."

Here is a link to find screening dates in the U.S.
And for even more information:

A quick & interesting bit of history - The Carthusian Order & Chartreuse liqueur:
The Carthusian Order of cloistered monks combines two fascinating threads. On the one hand the Carthusians are contemplatives who live under austere conditions while dedicating their lives to living in solitude, and listening in silence to God. On the other hand three monks of the order are entrusted with the formula and key production process for creating the hugely popular Chartreuse liqueur which is named after their mother house.

In June 1084 a German monk called Bruno (later Saint Bruno) with six companions founded the refuge that was to become the monastery of La Grande Chartreuse in the mountains near Grenoble. This was followed by a monastery at Calibria in Italy in 1101. At the time of the dissolution of the monasteries in England in 1535 monks from the Carthusian London Charterhouse and its sister houses uniquely refused to reject papal authority as demanded by the Treason Act passed by Henry Vlllth and Thomas Cromwell. As a result six of the monks were cruelly executed in their white habits in the Tower of London.

Today the Carthusians still follow their regime of solitude and silence alone in self-contained cells, with food being passed to them through hatchways. Except for when they attend Mass, Vespers, and the evening Office the monks spend their time working, praying, and eating alone. This severe lifestyle seems to do little harm. According to a story told by the Carthusians a pope felt the rule was too severe, and asked for it to be modified. To defend themselves from the changes a delegation of twenty-seven Carthusians travelled to Rome. When the pontiff found that the youngest in the group was eighty-eight years old, and the oldest ninety-five he dropped his request for reform.

The Carthusian's life of contemplation has remained virtually unchanged over the last 900 years, whereas the history of Chartreuse liqueur has been somewhat more chequered. In 1605 a Carthusian monastery at Vauvert near Paris was given an ancient manuscript recording the formula for 'an elixir for long life'. The complexity of the formula was beyond the monk's capabilities, and it was not until 1737 that the first Chartreuse was successfully distilled. The original formula is still used by the monks to produce the exclusive Elixir Vegetal de la Grande-Chartreuse which is 71% alcohol by volume, 142 proof!

The monks adapted this formula to make the liqueur we know today as Green Chartreuse which is 55% alcohol and 110 proof. When the French Revolution erupted in 1789 the monks were dispersed, and the formula was hidden until production restarted in 1816. But in 1903 the monastic brew was again under threat as the French government nationalised the distillery and monastery, and sold the trademark to a private distillery. With typically Gallic flair for the absurd the privatised enterprise then went bankrupt; and supporters of the monks bought the moribund business and presented it back to the monks where it has remained to today. A new distillery was built in Voiron in the 1930's, but the selection of the secret herbs, plants and other ingredients remains safely in the monastery in the hands of just three monks.

source: theovergrownpath.blogspot.com/

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