In the stirring and thoughtful documentary film "Music From the Inside Out," veteran documentary filmmaker Daniel Anker, ["Imaginary Witness: Hollywood and the Holocaust" (2004) and "Scottsboro: An American Tragedy" (2000)], collaborates with the 105 musicians of the venerated Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra to explore the nature of music. It is a film that asks questions and isn't as interested in the answers as the ideas the questions stir up.
In additional to traditional interviews, Anker uses an innovative technique he devised, in which 10-20 musicians sit in a circle and interview each other in "workshops". When I talked with Anker, he said that the task of getting to know the musicians was daunting, adding that the peer interviews produced some of the best material.
Anker poses seemingly facile questions like: what is music, and how does it affect our lives. He said these are questions the musicians do not think about, but that are at the heart of who they are. They live and breathe music, but had never been asked these questions, and they don't ponder them. The musicians' responses are fresh and rich because they are thinking about the questions for the first time in front of the camera.
Anker insisted that each musical piece in the film be played in its entirety. When he edits films it bothers him when music is chopped up because "good music isn't only a crescendo, but is meant to be heard as a whole." Anker says his intention in "Music From the Inside Out" is that the story be told twice: the musician profiles tell a story and the music tells a story at the same time, and the stories complement each other.
We are treated to the colorful individual stories that emerge from the staid mass of black we normally see on stage. We are privy to the passions the musicians pursue, like marathon running, painting, or performing with a Latin jazz band. Anker follows the esteemed Philadelphia Orchestra over three years and to three continents on tour. What makes this film work is that the interviews reach an astonishing level of emotional depth. Fascinatingly, the whole is more than the sum of the parts, and it feels as though the film itself has reached the level of a work of art.
In San Francisco, this is Joan Widdifield for Movie Magazine.
© 2006 - Joan K. Widdifield, Psy.D - Air Date: 12/28/06
Music From the Inside Out