The flight from Dubai to Washington Dulles lasts over 13 hours. Fortunately, Emirates airlines has over 700 films to choose from on its entertainment menu, including a rich array of foreign films. One movie I watched returning from our family vacation was Andrea Bocelli’s life story titled “The Music of Silence”, oddly placed in the Documentaries section by Emirates and also odd in that it is made in English using Italian actors – critics were not happy with the language choice. I only knew that Bocelli was a popular Italian tenor who has a beautiful voice and that he is blind. I was intrigued to learn more of his story. While it is an acted drama and not a documentary, one should keep in mind that it is the story of Mr. Bocelli’s life as told by himself, as though it were a story he imagined; the movie suffered from that decision according to critics who accused him of hagiography. The movie is based on a 1999 book of the same title by Bocelli and is available for streaming on iTunes, Amazon, etc.
If you are not familiar with his singing, you can listen to his signature song, Con te partiro, below from YouTube:
The movie covers the period from his birth and early childhood, when his vision problem was first detected, until his first major successes. He gives his character the name of Amos Bardi in the movie; his son in real life is named Amos. The movie focuses on his difficulties with his complete loss of his vision at age 12 and his struggles to become a singer, and then an opera singer, and his first marriage. He demonstrated his singing ability early in his youth, but his family wanted him to be a lawyer. He did obtain his law degree and was a court appointed attorney. During that period of his life he maintained his involvement in music by playing piano and singing in bars.
You can view below the trailer for the movie on YouTube:
I especially liked the portrayal in the movie of Bocelli’s path from being a singer with a beautiful voice to becoming an opera singer with a beautiful voice. Success in opera is not easily won. The scenes with the maestro, his voice teacher in the movie, played by Antonio Banderas, are for me the heart of this movie. One gets a more visceral understanding of the commitment and discipline required to sing opera. The maestro explains to Bocelli the term “the music of silence”. Banderas gives what I thought was an Oscar worthy portrayal; it took me several minutes to recognize that it was he in the role.
Mr. Bocelli has appeared in ten opera productions; this aspect of his career is not explored in the movie. His commercial success has come largely through his concerts and recording career. His big break came when Pavarotti heard a tape of his and helped promote his career. A major part of Andrea Bocelli’s career has been crossing over singing pop music songs, especially duets with pop stars such as Celine Dion and Jennifer Lopez, up to present day. Most recently his duet with current pop star, Ed Sheehan has received a lot of play, below from YouTube:
“The Music of Silence” was not popular with critics or audiences in the U.S., though I don’t think it was highly promoted here. I am unable to find that the Washington Post even reviewed it; the NY Times published a brief review. I'm glad I didn't see the reviews ahead of time because I enjoyed the movie, in no small measure because of my interest in opera, but I found it touching and inspirational as a movie in many regards. What’s wrong with a beautiful, sentimental, inspirational movie every now and then. Think of it as a Hallmark Christmas movie for opera fans and others who would like to know more about Bocelli. Who knows? He published a book in 1999, made a movie in 2017. Might an opera be next? Nah, but a Broadway musical? Now that’s a real possibility.