Moonlight Sonata: Deafness in Three Movements
A deeply personal family portrait, Irene Taylor Brodsky’s latest film Moonlight Sonata: Deafness in Three Movements is what the director has referred to as a “spiritual sequel” to her Peabody Award-winning Sundance hit Hear and Now (2007). Like that earlier documentary, which shares the powerful story of Brodsky’s deaf parents (who, in their mid-60s, sought to restore their hearing with cochlear implants), this lilting cinematic memoir explores the ways that “disability” is more of a socially constructed phenomenon (linked to prejudices about “normative” or “healthy” ways of living) than it is a biologically or perceptually defined category of personhood. Moreover, Moonlight Sonata looks at how deafness has been a source of intergenerational bonding in Brodsky’s family, which grew with the arrival of her son Jonas over a dozen years ago. As a toddler, Jonas was diagnosed with a severe hearing impairment, and like his grandparents he had surgery to reverse the effects. However, as a young musician struggling to learn Beethoven’s notoriously difficult Piano Sonata #14 (which lends this film its title), Brodsky’s son sometimes removes the listening aids from his ears, preferring the freedom that comes with silently playing that musical piece without the fear of making mistakes. Combining home movies, simple yet evocative animation by Jordan Domont, observational recordings of Jonas’s piano lessons, and talking-head interviews, Moonlight Sonata is a heartfelt ode to the human spirit and to the director’s familial devotion. By the end of the film, another spiritual bond or multigenerational parallel comes into view: that between Jonas and the composer of the two-centuries-old sonata that he has been diligently practicing (in preparation for a talent show at his school). Beethoven’s own mid-career struggles with hearing loss, the filmmaker reminds us, contributed to — rather than took away from — his artistic accomplishments. Similarly, the indisputable talent at the heart of Brodsky’s film — both her own and her son’s — is most apparent during its subtlest, quietest moments, which linger in the mind long after Moonlight Sonata’s many beguiling sounds drop away.
Written by David Scott Diffrient
Film Reviews & Press
Nonfics, 10 February 2019
“‘Moonlight Sonata: Deafness in Three Movements’ is a Great Work of Love,” by Brad Gulllickson
Irene Taylor Brodsky
Friday, April 5
Lory Student Center Theatre
6 p.m. – Reception for pass and ticket holders in theater lobby.
7:30 p.m. – Screening begins
Director Irene Taylor Brodsky and producer Tahria Sheather
will be in attendance for a post-screening Q&A moderated
by Liz Parks.
Tuesday, April 9
6:30 p.m. – Tickets here
Film + short film only. No guests.
This screening will be fully accessible for Deaf and hard of hearing community members. We have exceeded our request for Captiview devices and will be screening the film in open captions.