FILM REVIEW -- THE CHOSEN (Custody of the Eyes)
This documentary about the Life of Cloistered Nuns, The Poor Clare Colettines in Corpus Christi Monastery, Rochford, Illinois USA, cleverly invites today's world through Modern Technology, to experience a Contemplative Way of Life, which has flourished and seems to some A Medieval Life Style .. The Director, Abbe Reese, author of " Dedicated to God, "an oral history of Cloistered Nuns (Uni Press) sought the permission of the Prioress and equipped the Community with video cameras to capture their every day timetable, in a non intrusive way, also one which did not encroach upon their privacy. Their way of life is beautifully encountered by following an aspirant, Heather, as she, on video captures the slow, gentle pace of life in the Community and that which she hopes to embrace. Silence reigns throughout much of her video, which not only engages with the life and prayer of the Community but leads us the viewers to 'walk with her' as she discerns her Call from God to live a life of prayer and sacrifice, a hidden life, one in which she would hope to participate until death .
Much of this slow moving film showed the sisters at work either in the garden or making altar breads. Sister Amata slowly develops good relationships with her community of about twelve sisters, also with the dog and the cat. As Amata, a quiet young intelligent girl seems well suited to Community Living, she speaks with wisdom and passion about her New Life. Passages of dialogue are presented as text messages on the screen. Amata spends time on Religious Internet Chat Rooms, asking for advice and informing those of her progress. (A fascinating way of using modern communication from inside a medieval home ! )
After the film Abbe Reese (who had just arrived from USA) gave a very short background to her research spanning ten years. She allowed plenty of time for questions which on the whole were a positive response to this high quality hand-made self scrutinising video film which gave a glimpse of cloistered life and in which gave the audience a chance to encounter a life of silence, prayer and mystery. Sister Amata, hopefully is now enjoying her life in the Cloister in which she says is one where she can live out her calling ' to be a better person .....one which for her, will make her more human.'
As the young girl is accepted into the Novitiate, Sister Amata (a pseudonym) to keep her privacy, practises Custody of the Eyes, to watch her Sisters as they perform their duties, and as a way of learning the life of a Cloistered Nun. Definitely a clever way of showing this radical and counter cultural way of life. Her Novice Mistress equipped with camera too, displays great wisdom in leading her with freedom into making choices, which eventually leads Amata to committing herself for life .
This film came across positively as a charming piece of slow Cinema in which one, the viewer, was privileged to be part of the Life of a Contemplative, Cloistered Community. It was a beautiful and innovative way of Taking Part in " Open Doors " or " Open House " where we engaged for a time with those sisters who showed themselves as totally committed to their God.
Thanks to the Women's Library of Glasgow for bringing this film with its director Abbe Reese to Glasgow as part of Glasgow Film Fest. About sixty people, mostly women took this opportunity to educate themselves about a different and hidden way of life.
Sister Maureen Coyle SND