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THE SOLOIST

Finale
One of the great, stirring mysteries of "The Soloist” is how two such disparate men as Steve Lopez and Nathaniel Ayers were able to create a life-changing friendship. The answer may lie in their ability to communicate at a level deeper than words: via the power of music.

Joe Wright realized from the start that this uplifting, inexplicable power had to be infused into the film, yet without ever overwhelming the basic humanity of the story. A creative decision was made early on to focus primarily on the works of Beethoven, one of many composers the real Ayers reveres and obsesses over, because Beethoven seemed to speak to the very core of Ayers' love of music. "Beethoven has such an enormous spectrum of emotions. Indeed, all human feeling is contained within his music,” says Wright. "And I think also that Beethoven is a fascinating character in terms of this particular story because he himself had so many personal struggles, including his deafness, to overcome.”

For the film's original score, inspired largely by Beethoven's soaring Third and Ninth Symphonies, Wright reunited with composer Dario Marianelli, who garnered an Oscar® nomination for "Pride & Prejudice” and won both the Oscar® and the Golden Globe for his memorable score for "Atonement.” "Dario is an enormous fan of Beethoven,” notes Wright, "and one of the great pleasures of this film was really learning, through working with Dario, about the history of classical music and especially Beethoven.”

Marianelli also had the further pleasure of having the L.A. Philharmonic at his disposal and the chance to utilize a true-life mentor to Nathaniel Ayers, Ben Hong, to record the cello tracks Jamie Foxx is seen playing.

Hong saw the chance to play cello as Ayers as an exciting challenge. "It was a very creative process because I had to basically act with the cello,” he explains. "I wasn't playing as myself; I had to play like somebody else. In fact, I had to play like three different people. I had to play like the young Nathaniel, then as Nathaniel when he was at Juilliard, and then as Nathaniel in the present day. I altered the way I played the instrument for all of them to make it sound believable.”

Like Wright and Marianelli, Hong believes Beethoven will be another source of inspiration in the film. "There's such a full spectrum of emotional expression in Beethoven's works,” he says. "The music heard in the film moves from the tender and incredibly beautiful second movement of the Beethoven Triple Concerto to the very, very intense, almost angry and violent moods of certain moments of the Eroica Symphony, and reflects so much of the story.”

Continuing to use the local community, Wright brought in the University of Southern California Orchestra, conducted by Michael Nowak, to stand in for the Juilliard Orchestra in the performance of Beethoven's Third Symphony.

The real coup was capturing globally acclaimed conductor and the Philharmonic's then-music director, Esa Pekka Salonen, in his first film appearance, seen conducting movements from both Beethoven's Symphony No. 3 ("Eroica”) and his Symphony No. 9, from tracks pre-recorded for Marianelli several weeks earlier.

For Salonen, who became a part of Ayers' and Lopez's real-life story, it was a pleasure to be part of its retelling on screen. "Nathaniel is one of us because he's a musician,” says Salonen. "His situation is very difficult and complex, but he's still very much one of us.”

Salonen recalls his first, remarkable meeting with Ayers: "We spoke briefly about Beethoven and music and he said that he felt I was Beethoven reincarnated, which is quite a statement, so I would say it's the best review I have ever had in my life.”

Most of all, Salonen was pleased to be part of "The Soloist” bec

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