Thomas Keating: A Rising Tide of Silence (NR)

March 7, 2014
By Michael Nordine
This might be the most convincing of all the praise heaped on the Trappist monk who gives Thomas Keating: A Rising Tide of Silence its name: "He is not speaking Catholic doctrine — he is using Catholic doctrine to speak universally." The film makes heavy use of Keating's own quotations as intertitles and a good deal of archival footage, much of it accompanied by first-person recollections and musings courtesy of the man himself. Keating is every bit as insightful and enlightened as his reputation suggests -- he's generally acknowledged as the innovator of the Centering Prayer movement, which incorporates meditation into traditional Catholic practices -- so it's understandable that co-directors Elena Mannes and Peter C. Jones are sometimes given to coasting on his insights without offering too many of their own. This approach becomes problematic as the movie goes on, especially once it starts to feel like a theology lecture (in the professorial rather than finger-wagging sense) instead of a probing look at a fascinating subject. This minimalist style might generously be described as in tune with Keating's ascetic lifestyle and straightforward presentation of self. It's difficult to get especially upset with a well-made project of this kind, but at a time when the innovation and formal richness of cinematic nonfiction seems to be deepening, it's also difficult to get too excited.


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