Brotherhood: The Inner Life of Monks was a rare and respectful study of monastic life

The future of the monastery is under threat because the monks are dying at the rate of one a year, but not being replaced. Where once there were 75 or more, now only two dozen men remain. “I mean, we could advertise. ‘We need monks!’ Great food, always a roof over your head,  you can read a lot…” joked one.

The monks made only fleeting references to the sacrifices they had made. Instead, they spoke about their closeness to God. “I don’t pray,” said one elderly brother. “Prayer is the atmosphere in which I live.”

I would have liked to know more about their back stories. How had  a young American ended up at a monastery in Leicestershire? How connected were they to the outside world, given that one jovial German made reference to Phil Collins? 

The programme-makers could have taken the advice of one of the novices interviewed here, and ditched the music. “Lots of things are just trying to take you away from where you are. Listening to a piece of music  is trying to create a feeling within you, of happiness or something… here it’s all stripped away.” It was a film that needed no adornment.

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