Beautiful music, wonderfully played and well photographed
Presented in 2 parts, this 83 minute piece documents Wieder-Atherton's idea to do a set of pieces from across central and eastern Europe, including Russia. Some weren't originally written for cello, but she had them transcribed. Some were songs for voices, which goes with Wieder-Atherton saying in an earlier film she made with Chantal Akerman that she aspires to play the cello in a way that it carries the specificity of emotion of the human voice. She explains at the beginning of both parts how she feels each country in the region has it's own personality expressed in its music, coming from its individual history and culture, but that each land in the area is also 'impregnated' as she puts it, by the others, so there are certain elements that run throughout. All the pieces are lovely, and some are truly exciting and/or moving. Akerman photographs it all simply but interestingly. She focuses mostly on Wieder-Atherton, giving us close ups of her face and hands as she creates her magic, along with wider shots where we can see her expressive body language. We also get occasional shots of those playing with her, but she is clearly the focus, both in shot choices and in lighting.
My only two (very minor) carps were that during some pieces I felt other key musical voices weren't shown (in one piece there's sort of a 'call and response' between Wieder-Atherton and another cellist, but we never see her 'partner') I also personally wish the overview might have included some of the interesting more modern eastern European musical voices like Arvo Part and Henryk Gorecki. But these are very minor quibbles and the second is purely a question of personal taste. This is a lovely, highly enjoyable hour and a half of music that does indeed tie together a huge region and tradition of musical creativity.
This is currently available in a European 2 DVD, 1 CD set which also includes 2 other excellent documentary performance collaborations between Akerman and Wieder-Atherton, as well as a CD of the score for Akerman's film 'A Couch in New York' in which Ms. Wieder-Atherton is prominently featured.
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