Director Thomas Grube (RHYTHM IS IT!) and his accomplished film crew accompany the Berlin Philharmonic on a concert tour into six pulsating, dynamic Asian metropolises, juxtaposing ... See full summary »
Director Thomas Grube (RHYTHM IS IT!) and his accomplished film crew accompany the Berlin Philharmonic on a concert tour into six pulsating, dynamic Asian metropolises, juxtaposing centuries-old traditions against the breathtaking speed of Asian modernization. An inspired examination of the cultural clash between western traditions and far-eastern philosophy, between the modernity of Europe and Asia, this compelling new film takes audiences on a journey into the confidential and private inner life of one of the world's leading orchestras: a backstage pass into the complicated lives of the artists and diverse musical personalities within this distinguished community. TRIP TO ASIA tells the story of the struggle between individual and community, the timeless search for harmony within oneself and with one's neighbours: A unique musical excursion into the overlapping spheres of melancholy, enthusiasm, loneliness and yearning, an adventure told through fascinating cinematic imagery brought... Written by
Carrying on in the rich tradition of famed Berlin Philharmonic conductors Von Bulow, Nikisch, Furtwangler, Celibidache, von Karajan, and Claudio Abbado, Sir Simon Rattle's enormous talent and charismatic personality are in full view in Thomas Grube's moving documentary Trip to Asia: The Quest for Harmony. The film was shot during the orchestra's concert tour in Asia that brought them to Beijing, Seoul, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Taipei, and Tokyo. While it provides only a superficial sense of the destinations, the power of the music to touch us is palpable and the intimate look at the musicians' and their personal struggles is compelling.
The Berlin Philharmonic, one of the premier orchestras in the world, is a self-governing public foundation with the power to make its own artistic and financial decisions, a condition insisted on by Rattle when he signed in 2002, and this decision making power is evident when we learn that several orchestra members are on a lengthy probation and will be voted in or out when the tour comes to an end. It becomes quite clear that simply having a love for music and being technically impeccable is not all that is required. There is that elusive fit with the orchestra that is hard to define but becomes clear after an extended tour.
Trip to Asia features powerful performances of music by Richard Strauss (Ein Heldenleben, A Hero's Life), Ludwig von Beethoven (Eroica Symphony), and the modern composer Thomas Ades, whose Asyla is introduced. Grube supplements the concerts with interviews with the musicians who reflect on how well they cope with the competition, the desire for recognition, the loneliness of hours and hours of solo practice, and the enormous pressure for excellence they face every time they go on stage. Some speak to the camera and talk about how they were always loners and never felt accepted at school and how their instrument allowed them to offer something unique to others and to take pride in who they are, perhaps for the first time.
The 126 musicians of the Philharmonic know from experience how crucial it is to subordinate their individual personalities to the greater good of an organization, and the documentary is as much about the aspirations and self-doubts of individual performers as it is about the orchestra and its artistic achievements. Rattle is intense as he talks about what it is like to perform in an orchestra steeped in its own rules and traditions. "All of us", he says, "go through things that demands a pulling together of our disparate parts. The minute you start thinking it's about you, you're in crisis. When you don't believe that the music is something much greater, you have a problem." The grind on the musicians is evident and also on the camera crew. As the director describes it, "The team has gotten only three hours of sleep a night since our arrival in China. We're beat, not just because of the time difference, but because we rise before the orchestra and go to sleep after they do." The film documents the grueling travel, the rehearsals and the master classes, the stresses that build up before a performance and, for some, not knowing if they will spend their life with the orchestra or move on to a different career. The high point of the film is the enthusiastic reception in a public square in Taipei where 30,000 people cheer the orchestra. After that, the final stop in Tokyo seems anti-climactic and the end of the tour is finally heartbreaking for those who learn they are not accepted as revealed in the closing credits.
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