I viewed this documentary for the first time on PBS, initially following the television broadcast nonchalantly while working on my computer. By the end of the film, I was in tears and on my feet.
Peter Rosen has given us a gripping and sensitive portrayal of the contestants, the jury, the musicians and other people involved in the 13th Van Cliburn Piano Competition. Rosen has been criticized for focusing too much on one competitor in particular, the young Japanese Nobuyuki Tsujii. Personally, I am thankful that Rosen did
that. I became increasing drawn to the film as I started to take note of Tsujii. At the time of my first viewing, I was unaware of his blindness nor the outcome of the competition, so the gentle build-up of admiration for this seemingly ungainly young man worked perfectly on me. I was entranced by the piano performances and touched by the footage of Nobuyuki's interaction with his Fort Worth host family, the Takacs Quartet, the Fort Worth
Symphony Orchestra, and conductor James Conlon. One scene that I can't get out of my head is that of Tsujii's mother standing alone backstage, her hands clutching at her heart and her face turned heavenward, while on stage Nobuyuki performs Rachmaninoff Concerto No 2 in the final round of the competition.
In a world beset with troubles and uncertainties, it is a privilege to witness a miracle that blossoms from a perfect storm of extraordinary talent, indomitable human spirits, and unconditional love. Bravo to Peter Rosen!
Footnote: The music ("Whisper of the River")that plays on the soundtrack as the final film credits roll is composed by Nobuyuki Tsujii -- a fitting end note.