Baricco’s Lesson 21: Between humour and melomania
"My film speaks of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony as festive music intends, as entertainment,” said renowned novelist and great writer of fairy tales Alessandro Baricco yesterday at the presentation of his directorial debut. According to his wishes, Lesson 21 [+see also:
film profile] was screened not in a cinema but in Rome’s Argentina Theatre, built in 1732 on the spot where Julius Ceasar was killed and where in February 1816 Gioacchino Rossini presented the premiere of The Barber of Seville.
And it precisely Rossini who in the film represents the new, the “soul’s south”, the lightness that was advancing in 1824 Vienna, in counterpoint to the old represented by the Ninth Symphony of the great German composer and pianist.
Through a series of made-up interviews of personalities from the era, Baricco imagines and reconstructs that afternoon of May 7, 1824, when Beethoven – by then aged, deaf and in poor health – presented his latest symphony to the world, after ten years of isolation.
"It was not the success that everyone thinks it was,” said Baricco. "The organizers moved up the concert in order to save on candles and paying the orchestra more money and the takings were very meagre".
In Lesson 21, produced by Fandango and distributed by 01 in Italy on October 17, the events surrounding the symphony are interwoven with the life of a young music teacher (Noah Taylor) who wants to die on an icy lake a few kilometres from Vienna and an eccentric British university professor (John Hurt) whose so-called "lesson 21" was entirely dedicated to destroying Beethoven’s masterpiece, in particular the “Ode to Joy”.
However, Beethoven is merely a pretext for music aficionado Baricco, from whose novels two films have been made so far: Giuseppe Tornatore’s The Legend of 1900 and the more recent Silk [+see also:
film profile] by François Girard).
Inserting humorous modern elements (and several "fucks" to make the dialogue even more current) into the snowy landscapes of the Italian Alps and among the costumes and props of brilliant visual consultant Tanino Liberatore, on film Baricco continues doing what he is used to doing in literature and in his Holden school: storytelling. That is, telling stories, anecdotes and episodes.
(Translated from Italian)
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