Still Small Voice
Yesterday I saw the superb film, “Into Great Silence.” Superlatives fail, and, in some sense, are unfitting to a film that lives on a different plane from our habitual, often unthinking, verbal excess.
One of the biblical quotes that appear from time to time on the screen is the famous epiphany to Elijah in 1 Kings: the Lord was neither in the wind, nor the earthquake, nor the fire; but then Elijah heard “a still small voice” and “wrapped his face in his mantle.”
The film maker delights in the texture of things — the dishes carefully scoured, the fabric of the robes, the mysterious solidity of buttons. He clearly has sat in the school of Cezanne.
But it is the faces of the monks which most intrigue him. And here Picasso came to mind. Because so often the camera focuses upon the ear, as if the monks were all ear, straining to catch the whisper of the Holy One.
When words are chanted, or, rarely, spoken, they come as revelations of (in Hopkins’ words) “the dearest freshness deep down things.” And the final gently shattering words of the blind monk send one forth with mind and heart cleansed and renewed.
The almost three hour film is, in some ways, a Lenten exercise, but it culminates in paschal joy.
Do see it (even if this requires a journey/pilrimage), and share your thoughts.
P.S. In the theater where I viewed the film, one of the previews (rated PG) that preceded the showing was of a film by Quentin Tarantino, filled with the usual chaos and violence. The contrast could not be more patent. I was reminded of that other great epiphany from the Book of Deuteronomy: “This day I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse: choose life!”