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Thus, the filmic depiction of monastic austerity found in Into Great Silence might be said to offer a kind of hint at the insights of monastic practice, at the stark limits of the physical world experienced bodily in a life of ascetic deprivation, prayer, silence, and isolation. The monks’ path to the edge of that world and the boundary of transcendence is instead constituted for viewers as profoundly real through an experience of austerity via the film. As the temporal conventions and narrative forms of documentary are ruptured, viewers are left to study the edge of its surfaces for its hints of absence. We are invited into an experience of the edge, as edge, as an oscillation between presence and absence that hints at more. Gröning’s film offers an experience of what it depicts; film becomes a performative experience of monastic spirituality. A documentary space is opened for an affective, monk-like encounter with the film and its edges that offers a sense of something more.

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Media Fields Journal