The Curse Of The Gothic Symphony
- Director:Randall Wood
- Cast:John Curro, Veronica Fury, Alison Rogers, Gary Thorpe
- Release Date:July 19, 2012
- Distributor:Wild Fury
- Running time:82 minutes
- Film Worth:$15.50
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It’s a flawed but consistently compelling insight into musical ambition and obsession.
Artistic obsession, superstition, and the "show must go on" ethos collide in this flawed but interesting Australian documentary. British composer, Havergal Brian's "Gothic Symphony" is renowned as the largest and most complex piece of music ever written - even The Guinness Book Of World Records says so. So difficult is its staging - it requires, amongst other things, two complete orchestras and four brass bands - that it has rarely been performed, and so many attempts at mounting it have failed that it is viewed as cursed. Brisbane-based classical music aficionado, Gary Thorpe, not one to let a little thing like a curse deter him, decides to stage a performance - the first ever mounted outside of England. A quarter of a century later, he's still trying, when documentary filmmakers, Veronica Fury and Randall Wood, enter the picture, intent on capturing Gary's continuing struggle to realise his dream.
As a portrait of ambition and obsession, The Curse Of The Gothic Symphony is never less than captivating. Fury and Wood weave together the story of Thorpe's seemingly doomed project with the tale of the symphony itself, cutting in a potted biography of Havergal Brian composed of staged recreations and interviews with his now-elderly daughter, the delightfully eccentric Olga Pringle. The notion of hexed productions is a popular one in the arts - consider Macbeth, or any of several abandoned attempts to film Don Quixote - and the very notion lends the film a constant tension, as Thorpe and company (including the wonderfully curmudgeonly conductor, John Curro) tackle a series of seemingly insurmountable obstacles in their endeavour.
But while the story is engaging enough, the way in which it is presented falters somewhat. Director Randall Wood relies too much on dutch angles and camera movement to inject a sense of momentum where none is needed, and producer Veronica Fury's decision to insert herself into the film smacks of self-indulgence. Still, as an admonishment to always dream a little bigger, this works a treat.