Wednesday, 6 October 2010

A bear called Bruno

I had a bear called Bruno when I was little, so I will always associate the name with him and with a frantic search to find him under the bed before I could possibly consider anything so restful as sleep. (Okay, I still have a bear called Bruno, but he just sits quietly on a cupboard now). Saint Bruno, whose feast it is today, was born in 1085. He was educated in Paris and ordained priest - he taught theology. However, wanting to lead a solitary life he founded a monastery called La Grand Chartreuse. He didn't get away with that peaceful existence for long though, he was called to be an advisor to Pope Urban II. He died in 1101.

The thing about Bruno, aside from the bear, is that he also reminds me of an adventure to see a film in Cambridge some years ago. My brother was home from one of his many travels. Into Great Silence (2005) was on at the Cambridge Arts Cinema and I really wanted to see it. But, having explained the plot (?) to a few people I couldn't get any takers. The film, directed by Phillip Groning, is an intimate portrayal of everyday life in the Grand Chartreuse. Groning proposed the film to the monks in 1985, and 16 years later they contacted him to say they had agreed to his project. Everything takes time. Groning then went, by himself, to live with the monks in the monastery where visitors are not normally allowed. He stayed 4 and a half months from March in 2002. The sounds in the film were recorded by Groning alone. No artificial light was used to create the remarkable images. My brother said he would come. So, we booked tickets and drove the 30 or so miles to Cambridge, parked the car and went in. For me, it was one of the most amazing films I have ever seen. I loved it. Dan said afterwards it wasn't so much a film as a meditation, and I guess that is right. There is no commentary, just the sights and sounds, the rhythm of monastic life. I bought it on DVD afterwards and used it in the classroom. Then I lent it to someone and never saw it again.

I guess there is a theme here. Bruno - the bear - has to be found for peace to reign, but Bruno -the Saint - shows that silence can never last forever, there are jobs to be done. The film was just a moment to be caught and appreciated like the precious silences that come our way, every now and then.

Those of you who saw the film might remember this still image of dinner. Okay, so it is spinach and potatoes - very simple - but you have got to be able to do more with it than that. Simplicity is no excuse! With that in mind, two books that might help can be found here and here. Cook with them quietly! If I grab a moment today I am going to make spinach and potato soup, and maybe a loaf of bread.

No comments: