The Song of Names is based on a fictional mystery-drama by novelist Norman Lebrecht, but feels as real as many of the true-life Holocaust-centred movies and books.
It’s an interwoven saga of loss, faith and tragedy told in flashbacks over three different time periods.
In the late 1930s, a Polish Jew has brought his son Dovidl, a violin prodigy, to London in hopes of finding a home where he would be safe from the looming Nazi invasion. Nine-year-old Martin’s father agrees to take Dovidl and commits to furthering his musical and religious education. Martin is unimpressed, having to share his room and his father’s attentions with the arrogant same-aged Dovidl, but, after a rough start, the two become the best of friends.
It’s now 1951, the boys are in their early twenties, and Martin’s father has organized and financed a concert that will mark the virtuoso Dovidl’s grand musical debut. Dovidl fails to show up, disappearing like a ghost, leaving Martin’s family in financial and emotional ruins. They never hear from Dovidl again – to Martin an inexplicable betrayal.
Fast forward to the 1980s when Martin, a musical examiner, notices a young violinist with a distinct ritual for applying rosin to his bow, reminiscent of Dovidl’s. This sets him on a quest to search for his long-lost “brother,” seeking closure and answers about what happened to Davidl. It takes him to Warsaw and the Treblinka death camp (the first film allowed to shoot at the memorial), and clues lead him to New York where he comes face to face with Dovidl. It’s a painful, heartbreaking reunion, with surprising revelations for both men, and where we see the full extent of how the fate of Dovidl’s family changed his perspective on music and religion.
The Song of Names, by French-Canadian filmmaker Francois Girard, is a profound & haunting film that conveys the trauma of the Holocaust on both a personal and historical level.
The Song of Names plays twice Saturday, Jan. 11 at 5 and 7:30 p.m. at the Salmar Classic Cinema.