Screened as part of NZIFF 2015
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The enduring expressive power of the Western orchestral repertoire is keenly observed in this wonderfully idiosyncratic documentary by Peruvian-born Dutch filmmaker Heddy Honigmann (Underground Orchestra, Crazy). One of Europe’s longest-running and most esteemed orchestras, Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2013 by playing 50 concerts over six continents. The film takes in three of the more daunting ports of call: Buenos Aires, Soweto and St Petersburg.
It’s impossible to imagine a more appreciative observer of the venture than Honigmann. Her alertness to what drives musicians to dedicate their lives to performing is matched by a subtle understanding of the consolations that music can offer to any of us. And both are rendered all the more potent by her abiding sensitivity to exile, whether it be felt by a young flautist in his hotel room missing a son’s birthday halfway across the world; or by an elderly Russian who finds in Mahler’s Symphony No 8 a conduit to the vanished world of his mother who once heard it conducted by the composer himself.
“Here Honigmann sensitively interpolates generous helpings of the orchestra’s recordings to envelopingly persuasive effect. The most powerful episode of all is, paradoxically, the one closest to ‘home’: a nocturnal al fresco rendition of a sentimental Amsterdam ditty using the city’s streets and canals as grand backdrop, capable of bringing tears not only to Dutch eyes.” — Neil Young, Hollywood Reporter