The symphony of trees, a film with a sensitive chord

CRITICAL – Norwegian director Hans Lukas Hansen follows cremona luthier Gaspar Borchardt in his quest for the perfect wood, to make a violin worthy of a Stradivarius.

This price, he dreamed of it. This should have been the culmination of a life of priesthood in the service of his art. His Caesar ceremony … On September 26, 2018, Gaspar Borchardt sees his dream of a gold medal fly away. Sitting in a row just in front of him, the young Aixois Nicolas Bonnet has just stolen the limelight by winning the “palme d’or” of the international violin making competition in Cremona. For the craftsman who has spent his entire career in the stronghold of Stradivarius, this is too much. In the middle of his life, it was time to question himself. And first of all, why did Antonio Stradivari make such perfect violins?

The answer may lie in the museum. There, his former master reveals to him that one of his secrets may have come from a type of wood used by his illustrious predecessor: flamed maple, which Stradivari brought from Central Europe. Little by little, a crazy idea germinates in Gaspar’s head: to get his hands on this green gold that we say has disappeared, or almost.

Like a spy movie

Under the sometimes worried gaze of Sybille, his wife and faithful workshop partner, our “Indiana Jones” of the violin making begins his investigations. Multiplying phone calls. If he arrives at the end of his quest, he will try to draw the perfect violin from it, then to offer it to Janine Jansen. A violinist whom he admires (and of whom he is no doubt aware that she is herself fascinated by the figure of Antonio Stradivari).

One day, he finally stumbles upon what he is looking for. A mysterious contact, deep in the Balkans, gives him an appointment. Direction Bosnia. In his pick-up, escorted by sinister-looking lumberjacks, Bojan looks like those informers to whom one would not give the good Lord without confession. He forces Gaspar to drink vodka. Shakes him up a bit when the latter proves to be a poor negotiator. But will end up befriending the frail Italian luthier. These two were obviously not made to meet. The mysterious symphony of trees brought them together.

This is one of the lessons of this documentary, in theaters this Wednesday. Norwegian Hans Lukas Hansen films like a thriller. As a writing virtuoso, it took him four years of preparation, scouting and “casting” before turning his camera. We understand why. Although all play their own roles, Hansen has worked on his real characters to give them a fictional relief.

Some scenes are worthy of a spy movie. Gaspar and Bojan form a neat duo. Sometimes comical in the shock of their cultures – in the manner of Funès and Bourvil. Sometimes touching in their silences and their common quest in the form of a road-movie or a flight forward. Thelma and Louise. The director was not a music lover before he started. Yet he has a sensitive chord. And his film, that extra soul that lies dormant in the heart of the best violins.

The symphony of trees, by Gaspar Borchardt. Urban Distribution

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The symphony of trees, a film with a sensitive chord