Friday, August 31, 2007

The Monastery: Mr. Vig & The Nun: Something's Afoot in Denmark


"...the buoyant musical score and the numerous close-up shots of dust particles dancing in the sunlight complement the vitality of the film’s creaky and wheezy but nonetheless determined protagonist."

1 comment:

zennheadd said...

I love the music, first of all, and would love to know where I could get the Russian Orthodox music, at least. I was very moved by this film.
That Mr. Vig is a recluse and misanthrope is clear. He is a wounded man, and I believe he says that in several ways. His father treated his mother poorly, but his only expressions of love were for his father. He is clearly an erudite man and a voracious reader.
In his mind, which is mechanistic, in a sense (sans much feeling), he has had a dream to turn his private "castle" into a monastery. Having been distant from humanity in many ways for far too long, his dream is bashed constantly by the reality of the condition his castle has fallen into. It requires much work, and to her credit, the lead nun is savvy not only in languages (she says she can learn Danish and I for one, having studied four or five languages in one form or another, believed her).
Frankly, she exudes confidence in her dealings with Mr. Vig, in terms of the building's failings, and challenges him more than he obviously ever believed a woman would. She tops him again and again in her judgements. There is a serious impasse in the way the contract is constructed ... the viewer doesn't know how Mr. Vig's attempt to outwit her on a special change in the language will turn out.
She returns, and he clearly seems to be moved to welcome her back. As his condition seems to unwind, he becomes more silent ... a key characteristic of monastic life. There is silence, and there is music, and there is work ... when the nun returns, there is a an acceptance that his dream is now a reality. From my own view point, as one who has been to Gethsemani Monastery, in the United States, where Thomas Merton lived for many years, the silence that comes over him, and their interaction, has transformed him in a way I suspect he would not have guessed the struggle would have brought to his heart and soul.
When he dies, on Christmas, there is a beautiful ceremony. The snow falls, and the music is lovely, the cinematography is glorious, the glow of a sunset on a beautifully clear winter day. Silence and quiet are there now, the legacy of Mr. Vig's dream, and the thread which connects all monastic communities from St. Benedict on in history.
I hope someone can post where the music can be captured. I have used such music for many years as an entry way into deeper meditation. This was, to me, one of the best films I've seen in the last few years. It captures the elements of a certain type of monastic life, and I appreciated that the director managed to capture these people in their truest expressions of themselves.