By Sheri Linden
9:00 PM EST, March 6, 2014
The subject of "Thomas Keating: A Rising Tide of Silence" is a Trappist monk and a prolific author who's considered a transformative figure in contemporary Christianity.
In the 1970s, Keating became a key figure in the revival of contemplative prayer, reshaping an ancient monastic tradition for modern-day seekers.
Filmmakers Elena Mannes and Peter C. Jones are attentive to the beauty and discipline of meditative devotion, and their portrait will be of special interest to followers for its intimate conversations with the monk, who turned 91 on March 7. Jones, Keating's nephew, has a background in art photography, evident in the creative use of composite stills. But for all its lovely moments, the boilerplate documentary ultimately feels like a wan representation of an unconventional believer's life work.
The biographical basics show an early calling, one that left Keating's well-to-do, nonreligious family stunned and disappointed. Having chosen the monastery over a career in law, he soon found himself "really turned on" by homilies on early Christian monasticism, and he eventually explored Eastern meditation.
Footage of Keating in public conversation with Islamic leaders and the Dalai Lama reflects his active encouragement of dialogue across denominations. As a rabbi notes, "He is using Catholic doctrine to speak universally."
That gives his work a certain New Age appeal. Along those lines, the documentary tends toward a bland quietude rather than a dynamic inwardness. But even as the directors stumble, including testimonial-type interviews that feel like an infomercial for Keating's Contemplative Outreach program, his deep affinity with nature comes through, as does his humor.
"Thomas Keating: A Rising Tide of Silence."
MPAA rating: None.
Running time: 1 hour, 15 minutes.
Playing: Laemmle's Music Hall, Beverly Hills.
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