Saturday, 15 May 2010

The Concert


I've just watched the movie The Concert. It's a good movie, although for most of it you wonder if you could have waited for it to come out on DVD. It seems a bit on the low budget side, with characters more than a little cardboard cut-out like, and a potentially moving story that never seems to quite pull itself together despite plenty of opportunities to do so. Then comes the final 20 minutes or so. And all is redeemed. But that anticipates too much; first the story.

Filipov was the maestro of the Bolshoi Orchestra, until he and the orchestra were fired under the communists as enemies of the people. 30 years later he is the janitor at the Bolshoi, and Filipov intercepts an invitation from the Chatelet in Paris for the Bolshoi to play. He secretly takes the fax and puts together a motley crew from the past to play. Until the very end we are lead to think that Filipov is the father of the famous violinist soloist who will play with the orchestra in Paris. Filipov strangely misses the opportunity to tell her that he is her father and in the process she cancels the concert. But in the end she plays, the concert goes ahead, and they are brilliant together. And we discover that Filipov, rather than being the hero who stood up for his Jewish musicians all those years ago and lost his job for his moral clarity, in fact brought them to the attention of the authorities because he loved the power of the music they made together. His favourite violinist was not just arrested but dies in the gulag with her husband. But not before their baby girl is handed over to Filipov to spirit away to France. And yes, the solo violinist of the concert is that little baby now a great violinist herself. All is revealed, and the threads are brought together. The film itself seems to lose its cheap graininess and becomes beautifully clear and colourful. And the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto is played beautifully as all is revealed. The disharmony of the previous 30 years, the failings of Filipov, the injustice, all of it is picked up beautifully and poignantly in the music as it is played, and woven into a harmony that is sheer beauty.

The shame, injustice, disappointment and death of the past 30 years is not scrubbed clean in the end. Rather it is woven into something grander through the actions of the protagonists as they have a chance to redeem the past. it might seem a bit simplistic but how very trinitarian it all was! The protagonists immersed in a history of failure, without a happy ending in sight most of the movie, in fact a sense of a second grade movie for most of its duration, comes to a surprising ending that sheds light on all that has gone before. The resurrection of Jesus (and all that it implies in terms of the kingdom of redemption) is that surprising ending. Redemption is possible, without justifying the failure and its suffering, yet weaving the disharmony into a beautiful concerto. Faith sees it, although dimly at times. Yet when the story reaches its climax its graininess will be transformed and woven into the beauty of the story of the crucified-risen Christ.

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