Dir: Michael Whyte. UK. 2009. 100mins
Michael Whyte’s gently thoughtful documentary is an intriguing look behind the convent walls as he charts the lives of the Carmelite nuns in the monastery of the Most Holy Trinity in London’s Notting Hill. Their lives are modest, though also gently playful at times, and while they might order their supermarket shopping on-line everything they do is set against their faith and prayer.
It is a gently elegant and intelligent film, refreshingly free of cynicism or comment, and could well prove to something of a documentary success.
No Greater Lovemight lack the sheer beautiful, silent, elegance of Philip Groning’s surprise 2005 art-house success Into Great Silence, which examined the life of monks inside the Grande Chartreuse, the head monastery of the reclusive Carthusian Order in France, but it could prove to be popular for documentary buyers and television programmers.
Whyte is a largely silent observer inside the monastery (itself a place of isolation in the middle of a busy city) where the nuns lead a cloistered life dedicated to prayer and contemplation. They maintain silence throughout the day, with the exception of two periods of recreation. He wisely lets his camera be respectful and unobtrusive, and follows the nuns as they garden, clean, cook, pray and, in one delightful scene, dance.
He gently interviews a select few of the nuns, and delves into the main issues, such as motherhood and death. His camera silently observes the order – mainly made up of elderly women, some in wheelchairs – and he offers no voiceover, allowing the images to speak for themselves. It is a gently elegant and intelligent film, refreshingly free of cynicism or comment, and could well prove to something of a documentary success.
Production company: Hot Property Films
Producers: Janine Marmot, Michael Whyte
Cinematography/editor: Michael Whyte