Saturday, November 24, 2007
"A boy stands in a wheat field conducting a symphony that only he can hear. As the wind picks up, the stalks of wheat bend and sway in rhythmic harmony, each sound of nature becoming a note flying off instruments in the boy's mind." The boy narrates, "The music is all around us. All we have to do is listen." This opening sets the mood for the soul lifting film, August Rush. The story is presented as a musical fairytale. I found it to be a spiritual parable.
"August Rush," is the story of a supposedly orphaned boy (Freddie Highmore) who can hear the harmonic connection between all living things -- including his musician parents. He believes his parents are communicating to him through the music in the world around him. He eventually runs away in search of his parents and his musical destiny.
First, the boy must deal with adults who don't understand his gift and orphanage bullies who try to silence the music by tormenting him. I think many artists will identify with the theme of society trying to squash their creativity. I know I did. It took years for me to silence the voices in my head, "When are you going to get a real job?" so I could live up to my potential as a writer. It was inspiring to watch him overcome the influence of the skeptics and reach his potential as a music prodigy. His parents' stories represent the other side of the coin - how we can sleep walk through life if we don't follow our dream.
Some skeptics, eh, reviewers called the movie hokey or schmaltzy, and there were times when the story treads into that territory with a wacky Oliver Twist storyline with Robin Williams playing the Wizard, a musical conman resembling Dicken's Fagon. I found myself wondering how director Kirsten Sheridan could build suspense when the ending is telegraphed in the film's trailers. It is actually the Wizard storyline that successfully builds that suspense. One reviewer couldn't tolerate the coincidences. If this is taken as a spiritual parable, those are serendipities. Serendipities signal that you are going down the right spiritual path.
If you thought it was hokey when Will (in Good Will Hunting) picked up the chalk and figured out advance math problems with no higher education, you may cringe when our hero picks up a guitar and expresses the music of his soul without prior training. To me this scene is nothing less than a miracle. To justify his sudden ability, Director Kirsten Sheridan fashioned his guitar playing after the work of teenage Michael Hedges who used the same innovative method of slapping the guitar strings to make music. Sheridan was prepared to cast a real music prodigy in the role but was won over by Freddie Highmore. Freddie practiced for six months and does an amazing job with the musical performances. Another theme of the film is how music touches the soul and connects us with others. The music in August Rush uplifts the soul with its blend of ambient sound with rock, classical, and gospel.
OSCAR UPDATE: “Raise It Up” was nominated for best Song. (See 2008 Academy Award Nominations for more details.)
August Rush received a standing ovation at the Heartland Film Festival. Why the mixed reviews? The audience at the Heartland Festival was looking for a heartwarming, moving experience and they got it. What do you bring to the movie as an audience member? I believe that if you go with an open heart, seeking a spiritual experience, you will find it in August Rush.
Read more about the music: Finding the Right Notes for 'August Rush' by Robert W. Welkos, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer.