Review: About Canto (2011)

About Canto (2011)

Directed by: Ramon Gieling | 78 minutes | documentary

Renowned composer and musician Frank Zappa once said, “Talking about music is like cycling about architecture.” Yet dozens – or maybe even hundreds – of documentaries have been made about music and the alienating effect it has on people. Often it is people talking, interspersed with a few sound fragments and the – often expensive – visual material.

Filmmaker Ramon Gieling is now trying to break through that pattern with his film ‘Over Canto’, a mixture of documentary, fiction, essay and archive material, in which the worldwide known work Canto Ostinato by Simeon ten Holt is central. Gieling dives into the depths in his interviews with, among others, a pianist, scientist, designer or ex-pastor, alternates these with historical archive material and manages to get people in front of his camera who experience the music intensely (‘a human science in musical form’). ), when performed at Central Station in Amsterdam or Groningen. Comparisons with Bach, God, and the end of times – which at first seem to be drawn almost in simplicity, but become more and more sincere after an hour – are interspersed with images of roads, rivers, forests and mystical aerial landscapes as they look towards to your heart’s content experimenting with styles.

When documentaries or fictional cinema tries to break boundaries, they always have a chance to miss out on everything; none of the parts touch properly and certainly not the sum of the parts. Yet Gieling’s decision is understandable – the work for four wings also broke with the prevailing rules of music at the time (as many great works did), and why not try to achieve this with film as well. Life, death and the mystery of music come together during the 78 minutes that Gieling tangibly searches for unity. It is virtually impossible to strike the right chord with the three great subjects of our existence in just over an hour and a quarter of an hour, but the attempt to do so – on the basis of the ever-sounding and almost inhumanly beautiful music of Simeon ten Holt – produces an extremely fine and beautiful documentary.

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