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You will find your way both to and into this film on your own
I've often pondered which sense would I rather lose: sight or hearing. I had decided sight would be the one to live without since music has the power to make me weep (often). But "Die Große Stille" has made me rethink all of that. It's a pointless game anyway, but I reexamined the importance of sound in my life versus the magnificent, ravishing images put forth in this film.
Like the works of Frederick Wiseman, it's less a work of cinema than a window that Gröning offers. We watch seemingly arbitrary action both mundane and ecstatic. We're not "told" who these people are as individuals nor why they have chosen to wall themselves off from the world's joy and suffering. But as we watch, the pace of the film is slowed so that we enter this world and test our own thoughts about human contact as well as faith. But only if you're so inclined. There's no proselytizing.
At one point late in the film one monk chides the world for living without God, and you immediately think, "How would YOU know?" And immediately we see the value of silence. In silence we don't argue or plead, complain or preach. We simply live with our thoughts, and here the brothers seem very comfortable with whatever it is they are thinking.
Through repetition and ceremony, we enter the serenity these men have found. And while there's beauty in the physical aspects of both the natural world in its changing seasons as well as the cloistered setting, it's the tranquil beauty of faces that rivet. We meet them as individuals only in a series of live portraits where their eyes stare into the lens, through the camera, and into our souls. If I didn't have my sight, I would have missed that and been lesser for it.
For me, this was an amazing experience. But for others in the theater it was tough evidenced by squirming and the occasional snore. Surprisingly, it was the younger members of the audience who seemed most entranced.
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