“I continued my studies and the music stopped”
Music is a powerful force—a sensory cause leading towards an effect of memory, emotion, and spirit. It brings us together beyond labels of race, gender, or religion with a commonality able to strip us down to our purest humanity. And as Ludwig van Beethoven proved through his timeless classics (some of which he wasn’t able to fully hear due to an onset of deafness), each note has the capacity to hit our heart and soul when our ears fail to comprehend them. It’s therefore no coincidence director Jeremiah Kipp and screenwriter Ari Rossen‘s short film Sound/Vision resides within a seemingly deaf community containing a Beethoven Café on the corner. It’s also no surprise when the central mentor and mentee are respectively revealed to be Jewish and Muslim.
There’s a minimalistic beauty lent to the film as a result of its setting. Besides the almost constant melodies from young Nasrin (Rita Posillico) and music store owner Adam (Rossen) playing the piano is a heavy silence that begs us to pay attention to the details shown. First is a key threaded through the necklace of a woman on stage (Pia Haddad as an older Nasrin), next the signing of strangers on the sidewalk as young Nasrin disembarks her bus. There are the mentions of Beethoven, specific flowers in a vase, and even the obvious hijab to quickly discern the girl’s religion in contrast to Adam’s stories of Israel. Nothing is onscreen without purpose, there is no excess—not even words.
Just as we learn about Nasrin by watching what isn’t spoken, so too do we comprehend Adam’s past by what’s left unsaid in his tales of youth. With both it is music that has saved them, bringing them personal identity despite outside forces and prejudice telling them what isn’t allowed. Nasrin refuses to stop her ambitions to be a pianist simply because she cannot hear and Adam rebuked his father’s wishes and fears somewhere along the way to bring music back into his life. Now a kinship is unveiled as these strangers meet with religion not even referenced besides via appearance and locale. So whether they are historically adversarial means nothing when this new world sees them as equals. The music is all that matters.
What’s portrayed is a sweet look beyond surfaces into the soul. Compassion and empathy, love and appreciation—these are the attributes on display as Rossen’s characters travel paths they sought for themselves. Fate provides the collision to change their lives forever in the aftermath. One finds a legacy to give what he was unable to achieve; the other a voice to make dreams come true after no one took the time to listen. It’s a hopeful vision of human connection and optimism for the future, but also an acknowledgement of those we meet that make indelible impressions for which we wouldn’t be where we are without. The briefest moments have the potential to transform our very being, tiny events possessing monumental impact.