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Schwartz, H. (2009). Temporal transformations in cinema and psychoanalysis: On Philip Groenig's Into Great Silence. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 90(4):909-915.

(2009). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 90(4):909-915

Film Essay

Temporal transformations in cinema and psychoanalysis: On Philip Groenig's Into Great Silence Language Translation

Review by:
Henry Schwartz

Like a dream film interrupts our everyday relationship to space and time, shifting consciousness into a world of constructed fantasy that can carry dramatically altered rules about reality. In film our temporal consciousness is controlled by the narrative and by various cinematic techniques used to drive the narrative, like flashbacks, montage, and the rhythmic structure created in the cutting room. The centrality of time to the cinematic experience led Andrei Tarkovsky, the great Russian director, to refer to film as “sculpture in time”. Documentary film is less wedded to the temporal dynamics of storytelling, but documentaries still have a message to convey. With fewer constraints on the order of before and after, the documentary is closer to rhetoric than storytelling but, here too, sequence and rhythm play an important role in being understood. As a documentary Into Great Silence (2005) is non-narrative, but it also lacks the temporal attributes we expect to find in documentary film. It creates a temporality that seems to be the message itself, as if it was a dream whose content was dreaming itself.

The Carthusian monks of the Grand Chartreuse monastery, the subjects of this film, live separated from our world of digitized clocks and pressured schedules, and for the duration of the film it is their experience of time we enter. The viewer is gently captivated with the quiet, repetitive rituals of lives that unwind in a world barely touched by modernity. In the process time is effectively softened and elongated, and qualities of time we experience as noxious are removed.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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