This is the one film that I really wanted to see, in the programme schedule of IFFI 2011. Sadly, I seem to have missed the 3D version of the film, which is a shame.

It has several “firsts” to boast of:

1. The first feature-length film of Breakthru Films to be shot in stereoscopic 3-D.

2.The first film to combine live action and stop-motion in 3-D.

3.The first 3-D film to be premiered in a concert hall (London’s Royal Festival Hall, February 2011).

The film was produced in 2010, the birth bicentenary year of Frédéric (Fryderyk) Chopin. The film uses the music of Chopin’s études not only as background, but as its very fabric, its soul, its centre.

It was commissioned by the Polish Ministry of Culture, the Polish Film Institute and the Chopin Institute and is a multi-national collaboration which includes Poland, England, India and China.

The first thing that struck me was “Why Lang Lang?” I know of course, that he’s today’s piano superstar. But surely there were Polish pianists (Krystian Zimmerman) comes to mind, for example) who might have been better ambassadors for their country’s greatest music icon, and it will be a long time before another milestone like this comes along.

However, as this video interview with producer Hugh Welchman (who also produced Peter and the Wolf in 3D) suggests, other pianists were contacted but did not come through in time. Welchman rather uncharitably calls them “lesser” pianists.


Listen to Lang Lang talk about his experience as well:


I’m not able to comment on the 3D aspects of the film, and I’m sure they must have been great. But I think the film is a wonderful way to introduce young children, and even adults, to the world of Chopin’s music, and classical music in general.

The film-within-the-film (The Magic Piano) device, while ingenious, got a little confusing sometimes with the blurring of the boundaries between the characters of the two.

The music features eleven of the 24  Chopin études. These are the ones I remember being in the film: Tristesse (Op.10, no. 3) , Toccata (Op.10, no. 7), Waterfall (Op. 10, no 1), Ocean (Op.25, no. 12) , Revolutionary (Op.10, no. 12), Black Key (Op. 10, no. 5), Aeolian Harp (Op. 25, no. 1).

Heather Graham comes across as one-dimensional, and her dancing scene in particular is very amateurish and ungainly. Lang Lang fares a little better, assuming as he does the character of the wise, all-knowing guru reminiscent of Noriyuki Morita’s Miyagi in the Karate kid.

The idea of a “flying” concert grand piano is a phantasmagorical leap of the imagination (a Yamaha C2 grand piano weighs about 900 kg, I’m reliably informed) but then don’t jumbo jets weigh far more?

To summarise then: the film is a bold initiative, and seems to successfully merge futuristic film technology with the otherwise-viewed-as-stuffed-shirt world of classical music.

What next? A 3-D film featuring Debussy’s music (this year is his 150th birth anniversary) with excerpts from La Mer while a wave comes rushing at us and gives us all a good soaking? I certainly hope so!