into great silence

found myself beginning lent a couple of days early last night at belfast's being drawn 'into great silence' - a near-three hour documentary about life in a carthusian monastery.

it is slow and quiet, and makes the radical gesture of not offering commentary on the lives of those it portrays.

the notion of spending a life in near-silence is threatening to me, perhaps to most of us; but by the end of the film i was almost ready to commit. the film-maker, philip groening, flicks up biblical quotations from time to time, returning to jesus' words about giving up everything to be his disciple. the repetition of this phrase has a hypnotic effect, and as the film builds and builds to a climax in which a blind monk discusses his faith, intercut with scenes of the most extraordinary physical beauty, groening manages to convince that the richness of these mens' lives is an astonishing reward for choosing not to live like the rest of us.