"I have no words to say what I mean"
The fifty-two minutes of this thought-provoking documentary are virtually entirely spent with Henryk Gorecki’s third symphony playing in full, either in the fore- or in the background. This is performed by David Zinman conducting the London Sinfonietta with Dawn Upshaw as soprano. The film is incredibly moving, and a credit to the skills of the editor merging sound with image.
In the meantime Tony Palmer pushes the seemingly quiet and self-effacing composer to describe his experiences as a boy growing up in and around Katowice and as a creative artist in Cold war Poland – “I was deleted from Polish culture.” The film includes visits to Auschwitz (of course) as well as to beautiful Zakopane in the Tata Mountains in the south of the country.
Gorecki says in the film that, “My third symphony is tragic but not in the sense of tragedy. I wanted to express a great sorrow. I have no words to say what I mean.” Palmer has a go at trying to convey a message. There are visual references to Bosnia, another sight of European genocide or, at least, ‘ethnic cleansing’ (the film was made in 1993), but Palmer also chooses scenes from Iraq and Ethiopia to convey his message, the bodies of the Ethiopians mirroring the emaciated forms of those who died at Auschwitz.
Worth five stars without a doubt.