“Lovers of the Night’ finds beauty in the heart of monks

How to see life and love in everything the world offers is just one glittering aspect of “Lovers of the Night” by Anna Frances.

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With great care, humanity and attention to the unspoken, Lovers of the Night is a documentary that is both lighthearted and emotionally stimulating. It is not a film of grand gestures or intricate lives; it is just life. The mundane is made beautiful, everyday tasks are approached with delicate attention and the monastery in Ireland where it takes place is almost a character of its own. It has beauty, grandeur and undeniable spirit just like the men who live there. This documentary follows the everyday lives of the monestary’s resident monks and shares the problems, worries and joys that coat their lives. There is no added effect of drama or enticing plot line. There is only the message that a deep love of life does not take extraordinary measures, just the proper recognition of the world around us. True beauty lies in the simple things.

Director Anna Frances Ewert shows us much of the grounds on which the monastery is built and a great deal of personal spaces within its walls. Early in the film it is clear that the building itself is extremely important to the monks because it was built by monks. It was made with the same care and devotion still shown today.

Brother Alberic, one of the main subjects of the film, points out that the staircase railing supports have steel bars encased in the dark wood, a mark of previous craftsmanship that he takes great pride in. The craftsmanship is once again brought up in the form of the choir pews where we see the monks praying multiple times throughout the film. The detail-oriented mindset that is necessary for such ornate carpentry is the same found throughout the monastery, with extreme thoughtfulness found in every decision made. The pride and humanness of this place is so apparent throughout that it is not hard to understand the love that inspired Ewert to make this movie.

She shows us the connection she has to the resident monks by showing them directly. They are funny, religious, honest and emotional, and that is what makes this documentary the masterpiece that it is. It tells the audience that not knowing who someone is can be a chance to discover someone entirely new, and that is extraordinary. These men are monks, but they are still rugby-loving, joke-making men. They are gorgeously alive in their own skin, and they share that life with Ewert. That gift of insight offers this film authenticity, humor and a voice to the unpredictable.

Brother Alberic shares the story of when he first told his father he wanted to join a monastery. Met with belittling remarks and no support, Alberic still joined and became a monk. While telling this story, his face flashes with sadness at the memory of his father. However, the flash merges into laughter and self-love when he goes on to describe the true home in his heart. He found his home before God unexpectedly and the love that comes with that radiates from him.

There was a lingering question: What about women? Ewert covered that as well. When asked if he misses loving a woman, Father Alberic immediately replies that yes, he misses it every day of his life. He points out that the world has become macho driven and is in desperate need of more feminine qualities. When asked why he prays at 3:30 a.m. every day he answered, “Maybe I’m not looking for something but someone. Lovers meet at night, don’t they?” This declaration that love still is alive and well is a captivating aspect of the film. A simple sentiment — missing a lover — what could be more human?

Lovers of the Night does not disappoint due to the simple fact that nothing is hidden or glamorized to the point of envy. It is life in a monastery, and it is a glowing representation of human life just as it is. It is imperfect, in this case pious, and unwavering in its conviction that beauty can be found anywhere.

Edited by Brooke Collier | bcollier@themaneater.com

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