Opening 10 Nov 2005
Philip Gröning filmed the Carthusian monks in their lives of solitary prayer and contemplation in the monastery Le Grande Chartreux. There are no interviews, no music, no commentary – it is indeed a personal challenge to commit oneself to a life of silence – if even for just a few hours. They claim that they are not simply reclusive nor are they merely escaping the world – it is a duty called by God to dedicate their lives to listening in silence to him. Details about the order are on www.chartreux.org. For example, there is a very colorful story about the monks’ production of an ancient “Elixir of Long Life,” that they sell to allow them to continue their lives of dedicated prayer. In 1605 Francois Hannibal d’Estrees – Marshall of artillery for King Henry IV – gave the Chartreuse monks the ancient recipe, which, today, three monks follow, combining over 130 plants and herbs to distil in a wine-based alcohol. In 2005 the Compagnie Francaise de Chartreuse, the company that exports the Carthusian liquor throughout the world, celebrates the 400th anniversary of the liquor.
The story of Le Grande Chartreux is an interesting blend of spirits and spirituality; however, to watch this film in its entirety is truly a test of faith. It might be easier to enjoy the slow passing of time with a drink of the magic elixir – that should come with the price of admission. (Patricia Ritz)