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Beyond Silence/Giora

Beyond Silence is the movie that Wolf brought up to introduce the topic of
Germans and Klezmer some weeks ago. I don't want to reintroduce that topic.
However, I just saw the movie and I noticed that there were some errors
posted to the list about it, so I thought I'd correct them. I think that,
by and large, Wolf's contribution was the most accurate. I don't know if
anyone is interested in this. It seems that even the people who discussed
this movie before didn't actually like it.

It is true that the words Jew and Jewish were never mentioned once, while
the phrase "traditional klezmer music" was brought up, and its significance
to Lara Bischoff, the main character of the movie, was discussed by her
briefly. Also, while the production may have been Swiss, the location was
definitely Germany.

In addition, Giora Feidman was not only in the movie, he was most
definitely playing himself. And therefore, the Giora/Klezmer phenomenon
that no one seems to want to talk about on this list is pertinent to
conclusions that one can draw about the Jewish content of the movie.

How do I know he was playing himself? In the movie, we first see Giora
talking to Lara prior to his concert. He is called away by someone. That
person says "Giora, ..." - that should be enough evidence. Once we accept
that he was playing himself, then the philosophical discourse that he had
just given to Lara could be seen as Giora's own ideas, and indeed they
resonate with the few ideas of his that have come up on this list:

Lara walks into an empty concert hall. On the wall is a projection of a
Chagal painting. I'd have to see it again to be sure, but my memory tells
me it was a shtetl scene with a couple in the foreground, clearly a
reference to Eastern European Jewish life. Giora walks up to Lara. He says:
"Listen the sound of the picture. Can you hear it? He's a great artist,
Chagal. He know that el mundo (the world?) is music." (The bridge that he
makes between the seen and the heard is a reference to a theme of the movie
having to do with Lara's parents being deaf, and there being a significant
gap between the seen and the heard; but Giora is something of a guru here,
he effortlessly bridges this gap, and says exactly the right things to
Lara). He continues: "You want to know the truth of music?" Lara: "Yes, I
want to learn." Giora: "Learn? You don't need it, you have it inside -
Listen to the song inside." (At this I hear Joshua Horowitz's guts start to
gurgle; will he once again feel compelled to shout into the night that "we
are all klezmers"?)

Incidentally, the credits list the piece that Giora played as something
like Elohim Eli Ata by Ora Chaim, and Giora's rendition certainly had
elements of Jewish styling.

Note: Someone mentioned that the soundtrack was composed by a member of Kol
Simcha, but I didn't think the soundtrack was compellingly Jewish. Neither
were any of the slow, melancholy melodies played by the character Lara.

On a hunch I rewound to an earlier scene where Lara receives the concert
tickets and did a freeze frame on the tickets. They said in bold letters
"Giora Feidman". Not that this would have helped anyone while watching the
movie, but it does confirm the director's intentions that Giora was playing

By the end of the movie, Lara has developed an interest in "traditional
Klezmer". When did this happen? We see Lara's mother give her concert
tickets. Since her mother is deaf, she hasn't a clue what distinguishes one
kind of music from another. Lara questions her "How do you know I'll like
this music?" as if to say, "I don't know this music either". I think the
intention was that Giora's repertoire and playing were supposed to
represent "traditional Klezmer" (though that isn't spelled out in the
movie) and his concert was her first exposure to it.

Lara confuses what she heard Giora do with what she could learn in a
conservatory. She tells her boyfriend: "I just heard a wonderful concert. I
have to get into that school (conservatory). Do you think I'm good enough?"
She even writes about klezmer on her application to the conservatory. At
her audition, one of the examiners says: "In your application, you wrote
that you're interested in traditional klezmer music (this was misspelled in
the subtitles, but the actor did say the word klezmer). Why are you
interested in it?" -- Lara: "That's hard to say. It's a feeling. Perhaps
because it's so emotional." -- "Emotional? Well, well." (making light of
it). -- Lara: "Inside it's joyful and wild, and at the same time it's sad
and not really free. It's a feeling I understand very well. Do you know
what I mean?" -- "Then let's begin with your main subject" (he ignores her
question; it appears that Klezmer doesn't mean anything to him). But in the
end, you have the impression that the examiner is surprised and pleased
with the depth of her playing of some contemporary art music.

It seems that Lara's identification with Klezmer music has nothing to do
with Jewish culture. It has to do with a cultureless feeling that she
"understands very well."

All of this represents a tiny fraction of the whole movie. The movie is not
about anything Jewish. One could say it is about the healing of a
dysfunctional family. Or it could be about Lara's maturation and
self-discovery in the face of obstacles. There are other themes as well,
such as how society treats the handicapped. Klezmer is used as a way to
move the plot forward and to illustrate Lara's emotional depth and
superiority to her father and his sister (her aunt), who are emotionally
arrested by a childhood trauma associated with her father's deafness.

I would say that the reference to Klezmer is no more nor less superficial
than many cultural references that you see in movies. The "in" groups of
those cultures will always see the references as superficial. What the
references really herald is that the moviemakers view them to be
recognizable to the general audience, and therefore legitimate props to be
used to make unrelated points. In this case, Klezmer is seen to be
something exotic and both emotionally and philosophically deep. It's
proponents are seen to be people of wisdom. In the end, it frees Lara to be


P.S. I'm not a Giora fan. I once saw a film on him called "Jewish Soul
Music". It didn't inspire. As a consequence, I've never explored his
prolific list of recordings. Maybe others could tell me I'm missing
something. As for his "philosophy", I don't think there's anything
intrinsically wrong with a philosophy or metaphysics being associated with
a musical tradition, if they evolved together (e.g. classical Indian music
and Gandharva Veda), but I could see why proponents of a tradition would be
annoyed if someone on his own decided to link that tradition with a
philosophy that came from nowhere but his own head, and then make a
mystique about it. From what little I know, it seems that is what Giora has

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