Film Review: The Music of Silence

While it’s truly difficult to pooh-pooh the life achievements of the blind Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli, it might have been better for the world, let alone his legacy, if he had not written the “autobiographical novel” on which this film is based.
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Many of us have thrilled to the angelic voice of Andrea Bocelli, and we’ve admired the classic proportions of his Italianate head with its abundance of curly hair, now gone gray. And we’ve marveled that he has achieved such great success as an opera singer, concert star and recording artist even though he has been blind since birth.

Actually, according to The Music of Silence (both book and film), when Bocelli was born in Tuscany in 1958 he evidently had some sight, for in his earliest years he would see certain objects if the light was good enough. But then, at around age 10, Andrea was accidently hit in the head with a soccer ball and afterwards, despite surgical intervention, he was declared totally blind.

Well, that’s not exactly how it’s put in Bocelli’s novel/memoir. For ostensibly, he was not writing about himself, but about a vocally gifted blind boy named Amos Parti. (He picked the name Amos simply because he “likes” it, he says in voiceover. And he also gave that name to his oldest son.) At any rate, the Amos of this movie (i.e., Andrea) is born to upper-middle-class parents (Jordi Mollà plays his father and Luisa Ranieri his mother) who are at first elated that they have a son, but then, naturally, they worry that his blindness (from congenital glaucoma) will prevent him from living a full life. But because they are a family of some means, they try to do what’s best for their son, by putting him in a school for blind children where he’ll learn braille and other skills. But the child is not happy there, so he goes along with a plot hatched by his adored and adoring uncle, Giovanni (Ennio Fantastichini), to spring him.

Amos has always responded to music, and he has always had an unusually clear and pleasing singing voice, so Uncle Giovanni begins to enter Amos in singing contests, which he invariably wins, and arranges for his nephew to sing at weddings and such. However, as Amos grows his voice begins to change, and the frustrated boy decides he has lost his gift. Nevertheless, he’s still determined to support himself (and perhaps a family), and to that end he enrolls in law school and stubbornly insists he won’t need anyone’s help to get through his studies. But, of course, he does need help.

And, of course, he also learns that his voice never really went away. In fact, Amos discovers he can make a living singing in a piano bar. By this time, incidentally, Toby Sebastian, the British actor and musician (and a star of TV’s “Game of Thrones”) is playing the adult Andrea. (Oops, sorry, Amos. However, Sebastian does bear a striking resemblance to the famous singer we know as Andrea.) At any rate, the piano bar is where Amos meets his first wife (Nadir Caselli), who will support him in the next stage of his career. And, you may well ask, how does that come about?

Enter “The Maestro,” who has a reputation for training aspiring opera singers and is here played by the bearded and ever-charismatic Antonio Banderas. This maestro finally begins to shape Amos’ voice and, more importantly, instills in the singer a dedication and a sense of destiny that certainly hovers over the real Andrea Bocelli—whose singing voice, by the way, weaves in and out of the soundtrack and soars over a montage of his concerts at the end. A little catnip for the true fan.

As for the rest of The Music of Silence—directed and co-written by Michael Radford—it plods along without any conflict or drama or malicious act of any sort, as if it were the product of some really basic, feel-good algorithm: First he’s born blind, then he discovers a talent, etc., etc. Lackaday, even the true fan will become bored.

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