Director Irene Taylor Brodsky’s first feature documentary, HEAR AND NOW, won the Audience Award at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival and a Peabody Award. It chronicled her deaf parents’ journey into the world of sound.
Though Brodsky can hear, her youngest son Jonas began going deaf at the age of four. MOONLIGHT SONATA: DEAFNESS IN THREE MOVEMENTS is a “coming-of-age story about a boy growing up, his grandfather growing old, and Ludwig Van Beethoven, who crafted his ‘Moonlight Sonata’ as he was going deaf.”
Utilizing archived home movies of her parents, arresting animation and an impressive soundscape, Brodsky admirably showcases the two worlds of hearing and silence. Jonas, who received his first cochlear implants as a toddler, has mastered the world of sound.
He decides he wants to learn the first movement of Beethoven’s sonata, and though Brodsky and his piano teacher are both a tad reluctant, they agree. He’s now 11 and all the angst of that age, along with his disability, make the process that much more challenging. At times, Jonas feels more comfortable playing without his implants.
Brodsky’s parents, Paul and Sally, have also had cochlear implant surgery. However, because they were deaf for so many years, the results for them are not nearly as successful. They are quite accomplished, particularly Paul, but now dementia is setting in for him.
Once able to help with driving Jonas and his siblings to their activities, he has been sidelined from using his car. He spends his days reading and being active, with Sally constantly at his side. Jonas is devoted to his grandparents --- their bond of silence/hearing is quite extraordinary and deeply moving.
Ultimately, this is the beauty of MOONLIGHT SONATA: DEAFNESS IN THREE MOVEMENTS. Brodsky astutely conveys the love and admiration she has for her amazing parents --- and her family --- and how much all of this affects her love for Jonas. To be able to film such intimate moments without even the slightest hint of voyeurism, is a true testament to Brodsky’s talents.
Beethoven’s sonata is a lovely piece --- one of my favorites. As we watch Jonas play at his recital, we can see the joy and pride his family experienced listening to him. Could Beethoven ever have imagined the profound effect it would have so many years into the future?
Opinion: See It Now!