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If Luis Bunuel cared about music, he would have made this movie.
Writer/Producer/Director Pere Portabella was the producer of Bunuel's
"Viridiana," so it's OK to draw a line between their approaches to
The "Silence Before Bach" is a series of vignettes, somewhat like the "Phantom of Liberty" or "Russian Ark," devoted to the life-enhancing qualities of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. Some sequences are modern-day, some are in period costume. Some are flatly reportorial, some flirt with Vermeer-like poetry. Things never get too heavy, and sometimes they rise to a crackling Catalan wit.
I'm indebted to the film for introducing me to the writings of the mad Romanian writer Emil Cioran, who noted tortuously that "Bach's music is the only argument proving that the creation of the Universe can't be regarded as a complete failure."
At the time of this writing, links to external reviews appear to be skimpy. However, there are reviews of this film in the NY Times, Post and Sun, New York Magazine and the New Yorker, the Village Voice, the New Republic and Film Comment. Hopefully the IMDb will get around to roping some of them in eventually.
Unfortunately, Pere Portabella will not allow his films to be released on video or DVD, so if this one pops up in a theater near you, don't miss it.
The first sequence of "Die Stille vor Bach" is highly significant: a completely white piece, similar to an art gallery, the camera makes a long travelling in a complete silence and then appears a mechanical piano moving freely while plays a piece Bach. In the next scene a blind man plays a new piece accompanied by his dog German shepherd. Although the film is an open book, an excellent piece of camera to be reinterpreted in intimate spaces and inclined to reflection, the segment that has captivated me most deeply is the translation in images of how music can fill the void of people throughout history and in particular since the time that Bach changed the way of conceiving music reinterpreting the technique of low encryption. The film of Portabella, like all his films, is strongly experimental and avant-gardist in its technical planning, full of discrete virtuous details, with a non - narrative development: scenes take place in a more aesthetic narrative, more intellectualized than purely logical and the film has the ambition to translate the spiritual world of Bach's music in a series of visual images of great power despite its apparent simplicity as the concert of violoncellists wagon in the subway or the image of the staff with the music of Bach. As expresses another of the images in this film, "Die Stille vor Bach" is a journey into the bowels of music, to its essence and has the great merit of represent a world of sensations in a motion picture that sometimes becomes a bit topical, as the image of the half-naked woman playing the cello but others makes subtle tributes to the History of Art, such as the back of the subway cellist, reminiscent of Man Ray's "Women-Violin" or the same half-naked cellist, a voluptuous figuration of Malevitch's "White on White".
A truly cinematographic film about beauty in its purest forms: Bach's
music, silence, human conversation, the human body, music
instruments... Everything is shown with good taste, as if everything
could represent beauty itself, even mechanical devices, old river boats
or trucks painted with religious icons.
The movie itself is conceived as a music work: tensions are created and released (or not) or reformulated, there are visual leit motivs and textual leit motivs (for instance, the same words spoken by two different characters, centuries apart, in different scenes). There are reflections on music, on its formal aspect, on its almost divine reach.
A film about music through music, about beauty through beauty, self-referential and self- conscious. Humble, austere, simple and witty at the same time, like Bach's variations or Vermeer's paintings: cinematographic poetry can not get much better than that.
Too bad if it is not released on DVD: the producers and director should think better. Some people don't go to cinema just because they are ill or unluckily confined: they, too, have the right to enjoy a work of art. Isn't the director a left-wing intellectual?
This is the most recent work by the Catalan film maker,Pere Portabella. Although I've never seen his previous body of work, if it's any thing like this, I would love to see them (which would be a chore,as Portabella adamantly refuses to have any of his films released in any video form). 'Die Stille Vir Bach' is a meditation on life & how it's connected to classical music. It consists of a series of inter connected images, but with a fragmented narrative (it reminded me of some of the films of Luis Bunuel). The film is cast with relative unknowns (at least unknown on this continent). It would be recommended to lovers of classical music,or surrealist/experimental/avant garde cinema.
This film is a series of vignettes, some scripted, some documentary style, of people who have been influenced by Bach's music or are playing it. It weaves in and out between fictional and not, and at first seems to have no form until you realize that some of these episodes are interrelated. At those times, the film has a cohesion that is very welcome. If you are not a classical music fan or you have no interest in this director's work, you/d probably not want to watch this film, as it is a story told in music and voice about Bach. Interestingly enough, it is not about the life of Bach, just the influence of his music. The acting is fine, but not the reason you'll watch this film. Above all, you're hearing genius, and that makes the film worthwhile.
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