Speaking in Strings
Docurama
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted July 25, 2001
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Graphical Version
The Movie:

"Speaking in Strings" is the award-winning documentary exploring the life of virtuoso violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, who some critics have described as "possessed" and "frightening". After watching her play, the only way I would call her "frightening" is to call her "frighteningly good". An amusing and entertaining (if intense) individual in interviews throughout the documentary, she seems to be able to block out the rest of the world and play her instrument with a fire unseen with few previous exceptions. After watching "Pollock", I found that she does share some similarities with the painter; she admits that she expresses herself better through her instrument and spent a lengthy period struggling with depression.

The sort of physicality of which she displays when playing her instrument is almost tiring to watch, but in a good way. I'd never thought that simply watching classical music be played could be draining, but after becoming engaged with her story, to see her attack the instrument as if every muscle in her body was involved in a struggle is remarkable to view. Yet, her wildly energetic performances brought mixed reactions - some were amazed by her possessed playing, while others were displeased and found her movements overpowered her performances.

Interviews with many of those involved with Nadia's life offer insight into the essence of her intensity and her background. There are some sequences (such as one discussing a recent relationship and one where Nadia talks about being a "Star Trek" fan that probably should have ended up on the cutting room floor, but otherwise, "Speaking" is able to tell quite a bit about the life of this remarkably talented musician with only a 73 minute running time.


The DVD

VIDEO: Docurama presents "Speaking in Strings" in what looks to be its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 (full_frame). The documentary appears to be shot on video. Although somewhat soft looking and inconsistent in terms of definition, the picture at least appears passable and certainly never becomes hazy or blurry. Some very minor instances of pixelation appeared once or twice, as well as some instances of shimmering. I didn't see any edge enhancement though and only a few bits of older footage displayed a tiny bit of wear. Colors fared well, looking natural, accurate and only slightly smeared looking once or twice.

SOUND: The Dolby Stereo presentation is a bit of a mixed bag. Although interviews are clear and easily understood, there are some pieces where, although it's easy to hear the music, dialogue or other elements seemed a bit soft in volume and required the volume to be turned up.

MENUS:: A very enjoyable main menu presents clips of the documentary along with the basic options.

EXTRAS:: Bio of Salerno-Sonnenberg, Docurama previews.

Final Thoughts: Although audio/video quality are only fair and there isn't much in the way of extras, this is an excellent documentary and fans of the artist as well as fans of the genre in general should seek it out.


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