Touch the Sound (2004, Thomas Riedelsheimer)


I see why reviewers complained that this movie was too long. We learn little about Evelyn Glennie in the way of facts, background, future, profession. There’s little dialogue. There’s little character development! And the director takes that little bit, what very little he has, and stretches it out to 100 minutes, what could have been a 60, or hey, 30 minute featurette. The nerve of that self-important German to make a theatrical feature without enough support!

Actually that’s how I feel about Control Room and The Yes Men… movies that tried to tell a story without enough support. These reviewers would love Touching The Void, to name another creative documentary with a similar title… that one has a long story to tell, full of suspense, and the movie lasts as long as the story. Touch The Sound isn’t narratively driven, and is meant to be enjoyed through sound and vision. If you can’t enjoy such a gorgeous movie as this, why are you watching movies? And if the story has stopped moving forward and you’ve learned all you need to know (“she’s a talented musician who is nearly deaf”), why not leave the theater early? Because you’re a newspaper reviewer being forced to watch this as a job, I guess. My point just being that the reason I don’t let newspaper reviewers determine what movies I see is that they so often seem to be watching movies as a job and not enjoying what they see. A person who can’t appreciate movies as art can write no film criticism that matters.


I oughtta be talking about the film though, a perfect-ten picture. Amazing sound, amazing story, unbelievable photography and editing. “Visual poetry”, says the trailer. I could tell it was shot on film, somehow, even watching on DVD. It was “Super 16mm”, whatever that is. He switches to different angles while the soundtrack is constant, notably during the CD recording scenes… multiple cameras, or editing trickery? I was conscious of the movie as a movie, of the making-of, but not distractingly so. Lots of close-ups of waves in lakes, oceans, one exquisite shot of a long white line reflected in a pool when the waves start from one end, rippling along the line, forming “sound waves” to match the audio on the soundtrack. Another moment when Evelyn narrates about people having their own sound, and being able to play different people like an instrument… while Riedelscheimer shoots a sort of ski-lift with people in individual cars crisscrossing on suspended wires… notes on a staff! Clever man. This movie and Rivers And Tides should be watched annually. Hope Thomas doesn’t make too many more movies, or I’ll run out of time to watch anything else.


Fred Frith seems like a pretty cool guy, too. I’ll have to see him if he ever plays around here.


In the making-of, while they show Thomas completely fabricating shots in the Cologne airport, he says “I think reality exists only in the moment of perception. It’s a live, first-hand experience. One cannot reproduce or film it. It’s a personal experience, which is nontransferable. And I think it’s wrong to say that documentaries are objective. They are as much an expression of a very personal view as any other creative work.” Funny, I was just writing about that two days ago.