Hymn to hu­man­ity

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Movies - TIM MARTAIN Mrs Carey’s Con­cert Now show­ing State Cin­ema

MRS Carey’s Con­cert not only demon­strates the trans­for­ma­tive power of mu­sic but also the po­tency of a sim­ple hu­man story.

This ob­ser­va­tional doc­u­men­tary fo­cuses on the stu­dents at an ex­clu­sive Syd­ney girls school as they pre­pare for their big two-yearly con­cert at the Syd­ney Opera House.

The en­tire school is in­volved – if you don’t play an in­stru­ment, you sing in the choir – and mu­si­cal di­rec­tor Karen Carey’s two big­gest chal­lenges are stu­dents Iris Shi and Emily Sun.

Emily ( pic­tured) is an in­cred­i­bly gifted vi­o­lin­ist and Mrs Carey wants her to per­form a solo; Emily is re­luc­tant, say­ing she is happier fol­low­ing oth­ers and does not want to lead.

What might ini­tially look like false mod­esty or shy­ness turns out to be a symp­tom of some­thing much sad­der in Emily’s past.

Mean­while, re­bel­lious Iris is rel­e­gated to the choir and she’s not happy about it. She thinks the con­cert is ridicu­lous, but un­com­pro­mis­ing Mrs Carey is con­vinced she can crack even this tough nut.

The cam­eras fol­lowed the stu­dents and staff for 18 months, at­tend­ing the orches­tra’s re­hearsals ev­ery week as well as pri­vate lessons, in­ter­views and the big con­cert it­self.

The cam­eras fo­cus closely on the girls’ faces – when they are per­form­ing, when they are talk­ing and when they are un­aware they are even be­ing filmed – and it is re­mark­able how much of a story can be told just through emo­tions wash­ing over their faces.

Watch­ing Emily’s body lan­guage chang­ing over the course of the film is fas­ci­nat­ing and ob­serv­ing the emo­tions on her face as she plays is quite beau­ti­ful, es­pe­cially once you learn what she thinks about while she plays.

Even Iris’s scowl­ing, eye-rolling de­meanour can be fas­ci­nat­ing and you can pin­point the pre­cise mo­ment when she ‘‘ gets it’’.

Be­tween the re­mark­able mu­si­cal per­for­mances and the ten­der, in­sight­ful hu­man mo­ments, I was not pre­pared for how much this film would af­fect me.

The only thing more beau­ti­ful than the mu­sic is see­ing those sim­ple, sub­tle mo­ments that no­body could pos­si­bly script.

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