Into Great Silence

It’s sopo-RIFFIC!
Philip Gröning
The Setup: 
Non-narrative documentary about the daily life of the French monk.

This is a three-hour non-narrative documentary about monks in a French monastery. It is said to be ‘hypnotic’ and suchlike. My friend wanted to see this, and I thought I could be persuaded, so off we went, only to find that the 5:30 show was SOLD OUT. And this is after the movie is held over due to popular demand. May I remind you that this is a three-hour non-narrative documentary about daily life in a monastery. You gotta love New York.

So we decide [not entirely in accordance with my wishes] to kill three hours and attend the 8:30 showing. So me and my friend go to this gay bar for 13 minutes before we find it too unremittingly dismal, then try to walk on the Christopher Street pier, but are rebuffed by the extreme chilly river wind, then walk around for 30 minutes trying to find the exact right restaurant, then decide on one. We had a wonderful meal, but I should have known [in fact, I did know] that a Mojito and a pitcher of sangria and a PAELLA would find me sleeping almost entirely through the three-hour non-narrative documentary on the daily life of the monk.

I had a nice healthy buzz at the end of our dinner, which sadly died off nearly the MOMENT we finally entered the theater. The movie starts [no previews?!?!?]. Candles are lit. Chants are chanted. Fabric is cut. Pages are turned. Snow falls. New monks are initiated. I fall asleep.

I did notice my friend glancing over at me to see if I was asleep, and this made me wonder if I had been asleep even longer than I thought, for when I looked at my watch an hour and fifteen minutes had passed. Thing is, I was pretty sure I was awake. But then I thought, ‘You know, I bet this is just going to go on exactly like this until the end, and then just END in one of those ways that is supposed to be meaningful and acetic. Just like the monks.” And, my dear, dear reader, I made the decision not to stay. As I write this, shooting quickly home via the A line, my friend remains alone in the theater. I am nearly home, and he still has 30 minutes of monks a'monking to go.

It was very quiet. You really are just watching a bunch of monks do what they do for three hours [at least that’s my assumption—maybe there’s a catastrophic alien attack in the last 45 minutes]. I can easily see where some viewers, as several reviews have stated, fall into a sort of trance and become fascinated by what’s unfolding on screen. This may, however, be due to the fact that poor professional critics are required to stay and watch the entire movie. God, that would drive me crazy. But alas, I am not spiritual. Which would lead me to say such things as “if you watch a sanitation worker pick up garbage for three hours you’ll probably find some meaning in it.” If only to justify WHY you might have spent three hours watching sanitation workers.

Anyway, other people love it. If my friend gets back to me and says it was incredibly moving or I really missed something or at the end we find out there was a hidden cave with lost mystical relics sought by Paul Walker in it, I will happily report that to you. [REPORT: No, like I said, it continues as it was and then ends.] But for now, I am delighted to be almost home and minutes away from my snuggly bunny and my bed. And even more delighted that I don’t have to sit through the rest of that fucking movie, though, admittedly, it might have left me a better person. But whatever.

Should you watch it: 

If you REALLY want to see a three-hour non-narrative documentary about the daily life of the monk.