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Friday, November 09, 2007

San Giorgio Monastery at the movies

- Claude Monet, San Giorgio Maggiore at Twilight

I've just read a couple of movie review of an Italian film - In memoria di me (In Memory of Me/Myself). One review was actually a comment posted at the IMBd and was fairly positive. The other was a review at The Catholic Herald and was pretty negative. The movie is loosely based on a 1960 novel by Furio Monicelli, The Perfect Jesuit, and tells of a young man, Andrea, who enters a Jesuit noviciate at the San Giorgio Monastery on an island in Venice. After reading the reviews, I don't think I'll see the movie but one thing which did interest me was where the movie took place - the monastery. Below I have posted a little from the reviews and below that, some info about the San Giorgio Monastery.

- Looking down on the cloisters from the bellfry of San Giorgio

Here's a bit of the review from IMDb ....

The world of Saverio Costanzo's In Memory of Me (In memoria di me) is collective, yet interior. This is a beautifully composed, austere film with sparse but significant dialogue. When Andrea (Christo Jivkov) arrives at the big Jesuit monastery (shot entirely at San Giorgio Maggiore near Venice) the Father Superior (Andre Henneke) tells him to report on his fellow novices if they don't measure up. Mutual public criticism is a regular thing. The uniform is sweaters and slacks. Andrea's room on a big corridor is minimal, but he has a laptop; there are few of the medieval accoutrements shown in Philip Groning's documentary about La Grande Chartreuse, Into Great Silence. This is a low-contact culture. People don't even say good morning in the communal bathroom. They stare at each other, but hardly interact .....

Some of the scenes as time passes are more symbolic than realistic. Also subtle is the way Costanzo alludes to the possible temptations of homosexuality in this lonely, all-male setting, without any overt scenes—these are temptations, not actions. At first it seems this, or the moral issue of informing on associates, will be the main theme, but it's the spiritual journey that slowly draws all our attention. The title alludes to the fact that dedication to the priestly life means abandonment of the "me," the ego—after the training, it's only a memory ..... Elegant cinematography (by Mario Amura) alternates austere shots of hallways and chapel with intense close-ups of the men's faces. A clever soundtrack by Alter Ego uses piano concertos and waltzes in surprising ways, and ends with the kyrie from a contemporary Luba mass.

And the review from The Herald, to which I'd give more weight as it's written by a Jesuit ....

On an autumn day set in the present time a young man, Andrea (Christo Jivkov), arrives at a Jesuit noviciate to begin training for the priesthood ..... This is a joyless place of silence, study, suspicion, spying, intrigue, eavesdropping, self-obsession and tortured speculation. Acidulated spiritual conferences, icily given by the father superior (André Hennicke) and novice master (Marco Baliani) – mostly taken from the first week of Ignatius Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises – extol immolation. In two hours there is only one smile (at the end) and no laughter. Instead, there are sidelong glances, long gazes, pensive expressions and immobile features. Insomniac nights are broken by stealthy, sometimes prying walks along sterile marble corridors and across box-bedded cloisters .....

Saverio Costanzo, the director, has not made a documentary about Jesuit life, then or now, but loosely uses Monicelli’s novel to examine existential themes and the contrast between religious faith, embodied in repression, and humanist emancipation ..... Religious vocation, meanwhile, is depicted as pointless masochism. The fundamental motivation of the Spiritual Exercises is ultimately to put the Christian life into concrete, particular terms that lead to the discovery of God in all things. In this claustrophobic atmosphere there is no evidence of community, no pastoral activity outside the noviciate walls, and no obvious preparation for a life of mission in the world ..... Somehow, I suspect that In Memory of Me will not result in the same number of inquiries about Jesuit life that followed The Mission.

Now for the location, San Giorgio Monastery ....

The San Giorgio Monastery is a Benedictine monastery in Venice, lying on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore. It stands next to the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore, and is now the seat of Cini Foundation ..... The monastery was founded in 982 AD following the donation from the Doge Tribuno Memmo to Giovanni Morosini, who was then the first abbot ..... During the centuries the monastery became a theological, cultural and artistic center of primary importance in Europe ..... Paolo Veronese painted the massive The Wedding at Cana ..... After the fall of the Republic in 1797, the monastery was deprived of its most precious books and works of art; Napoleon sent The Wedding at Cana to Paris, and at present it is exposed in the Louvre museum ..... in 1806 it was suppressed ..... Only a few monks obtained to remain to officiate the church, while the monastery became a weapons depot. For more than a century it continued to be a military presidium, undergoing a grave deterioration ..... In 1951 the Italian Government granted the monastery to the Cini Foundation, which restored it and revived its cultural tradition.

- areal view of the monastery


Blogger cowboyangel said...

That's beautiful, Crystal. I'm sure Liam has been there. He's been to all cool places, especially in Italy. And I'm not envious of him in the least. No, no, no. The bum.

What's that amazing mountain-top monastery in . . . Greece? Although, I guess that would be a Greek Orthodox monastery.

That might make an interesting post - what are the most spectacular monasteries in the world? Or monasteries, churches, cathedrals. One of the coolest I've ever seen was in Soria, Spain, which was built into the side of a cliff. The inside was almost all cave walls! And not far way were some pretty impressive remnants of a Templar church. That was a great trip, actually.

There must be some pretty cool monasteries and churches in California, no?

The Hearst mansion and all that. :-)

8:05 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

And yet, he hasn't been to Bari :-)

Is that Mt. Athos? I looked up how many churches I've posted about - Hagia Sophia, St. John Lateran, Gracanica, St. Mungo's, St. Basil's, and La Sagrada Família - It's a grea blog topic :-)

11:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In memoria di me IS ONE OF THE BEST FILM I HAVE EVER SEEN! (next to La Strada and So Far away,So close)

2:57 AM  

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