In award-winning director Irene Taylor Brodsky’s new documentary Moonlight Sonata: Deafness in Three Movements, she explores her own family’s ability to cope with deafness. This story is intertwined with Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, which was composed during the year he started to lose his hearing. (SYJ 4.5/5)
Review written by FF2Media Intern Sophia Y. Jin
Learning that a newborn child has full hearing is considered the norm, but when Jonas’ parents parents are told that their child can hear, they feel relief. However, this is short-lived as soon after they learn that Jonas is losing his hearing rapidly due to a genetic predisposition. This life-changing condition comes from Brodsky’s own parents, who are both deaf. By the time Jonas turned 4, he had lost all his hearing. Jonas’ parents began to notice this as he was not learning how to talk as easily as a child his age should. The sounds he was producing were that of someone who wasn’t able to digest all the vowels and consonances.
The process that followed was a long and arduous one. Jonas had to go through many tests and checkups in order to monitor how his hearing was doing, whether it was deteriorating and at what speed. He got a hearing aid in order to try and salvage what was left of his hearing, which amplified whatever sound he was still able to hear. Unfortunately, that didn’t last long. Jonas’ grandparents had gotten a cochlear implant each to try and hear. After almost 80 years of not being able to hear, they felt it was not a necessity for them as they had already adapted to their environment without sound. For Jonas, however, was a different story. He was a young child, which was an advantage, and so he was able to adapt faster and easier to a world with sound provided by his cochlear implant. Without it, he cannot hear.
Growing up, it is important for the child to be able to hear, whether it is hearing the jokes from a friend or the sounds on a computer game. In Paul’s (Jonas’ grandfather) childhood, children were less understanding of his lack of hearing. So, Jonas spent most of his time with the implant in. He did not yet discover the beauty of not being able to hear. When learning his favorite piece, the Moonlight Sonata, Jonas is overwhelmed by the loud sounds his brothers would make playing the violin, or screaming, or playing with the dog.
As life progresses, Paul realizes that he is less able to keep up with everything. He becomes more forgetful and less responsive. From a young age, he has been able to drive, which gives him the feeling of being able to do everything and anything. However, when it becomes more difficult for him to react, driving the grandkids around becomes more dangerous. Asking him not to drive the children is equivalent to stripping him away from his ability to do everything.
In director Irene Taylor Brodsky’s new documentary Moonlight Sonata: Deafness in Three Movements, she explores the world of silence against the world of sound. The secret power that his grandparents have of taking out the implant and being completely oblivious to sound is passed down to Jonas, too. Sometimes not being able to hear anything is a blessing, and discovering oneself within that silence is truly important. The eerie and serene music, by Dylan Stark and Ben Johnson, accompanies the watercolor animations of Beethoven playing the piano and composing. This brings an ethereal feeling, portraying Ludwig van Beethoven’s quote “Music is like a dream. A dream that I cannot hear.” This film reminds us of the advances of modern technology and medicine that gives deaf people the ability to hear, something that wasn’t available 50 years ago, let alone in the 1800s. Filling eyes with tears, Moonlight Sonata: Deafness in Three Movements really beautifully shows there is a life without sound worth living, especially with the support of family and friends, and that there is hope for a cure for deafness.
© Sophia Y Jin (9/18/19) FF2 Media
Coach Katusha’s Comments:
Irene Taylor Brodsky’s Moonlight Sonata: Deafness in Three Movements draws on the famous composer to explain the emotional connection our senses create between our inner and outer worlds. Beethoven’s musicianship is a miracle story where a composer and performer loses his hearing and is still able to create universally-loved music. This shows the audience that there is more to the world of sound than being able to hear.
Following the experiences of the older generation, we are shown how much can change with time in the fields of medicine and technology. Jonas’ life will be vastly different to that of his grandparents.
Brodsky’s film reminds us that the world is changing, and modernization is creating more opportunities for people. But more than that, she shows us that there’s more than one way to live a fulfilling life, and the people we surround ourselves with are key to our well-being. A touching and meaningful, heartfelt piece that has been put together beautifully. (KIZJ: 4.5/5)
Does Moonlight Sonata: Deafness in Three Movements pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test?
Yes, the film talks about deafness and how to cope with it.
Photo credits: IMDb