Into the Field 2006
Distributed by Documentary Educational Resources, 101 Morse Street, Watertown, MA 02472; 617-926-0491
Directed by Alyssa Grossman
DVD, color, 88 min.
Sr. High - Adult
Anthropology, European Studies, Religious Studies, Sociology, Women's Studies
Date Entered: 06/27/2007Reviewed by Linda Frederiksen, Washington State University, Vancouver, WA
Varatec Monastery, home to several hundred Eastern Orthodox nuns, provides a pastoral setting for this short documentary, directed by Alyssa Grossman, a doctoral student of social anthropology at the University of Manchester, England. The Romanian nuns, ranging in age from young to old, typically live in small group residences rather than large communal convents, with younger sisters under the supervision of elderly mothers, who pass on the ritual and traditions of the two hundred year old sect. As an example of visual anthropology, the film records the rural life of these nuns, which may include 10-20 years of “obedience work,” such as farming, beekeeping, honey collection, shepherding, and sewing. Although there are a few scenes showing the spiritual life of the community, the film is more concerned with the daily secular life of the monastery. Several of the nuns are featured in brief interviews, discussing their work and the reasons for choosing to enter and stay in the monastery.
Visually, Grossman captures the dazzling Romanian countryside in summer as well as the women’s calmness and happiness with the life they have chosen. The film is divided into four sections, titled Arrival, Initiative, Data Collection and Participant Observation, which like the stop-action animation technique used throughout the film, do not relate clearly to the activity depicted. Despite these minor flaws, the film is an interesting ethnographic field study of a small but vibrant closed community in central post-Soviet Europe. Recommended for undergraduates.