One Mountainfilm that was quite heart-wrenching for me personally was Moonlight Sonata: Deafness in Three Movements, directed by Irene Taylor Brodsky. This film focused on the director’s family, her son, and father as they lived and tried to cope with deafness. The film centers around Jonas, the son, who became deaf as a young child, but was able to receive two cochlear implants, which allowed him to hear the rest of the world and communicate efficiently. With animation, personal attachments for the director, and multiple subjects, the film spread light on the topic of deafness in an interesting way.
Jonas was shown primarily while he was practicing piano, trying to perfect Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, which was the piece the composer created while he was going deaf himself. While Jonas played the Sonata, short pieces of animation illustrated his anguish and sadness as he was soon to lose the art he had grown to love. Jonas was able to connect with Beethoven through the art of music, and the audience was able to see that connection because of the edits between Jonas playing and the animation of Beethoven. (Clip start at 52 seconds). Not only was Beethoven animated, he was transformed into a bird quite a few times as a sign of peace and connection.
Even though the director, Irene Taylor Brodsky was personally connected to the story, it didn’t hinder how the film turned out, but instead allowed her to give the audience an inside look into how deafness can affect someone personally even though they themselves aren’t deaf.
Brodsky’s film focused on Jonas coming to terms with his deafness and using it as a gift, and then Charlie, Irene’s father, and how he is losing his mind as he deteriorates with the onslaught of dementia and Alzheimer’s. This must’ve been difficult to shoot as the camera can be there for his memory tests and the audience and Irene witness his failure to remember simple things. The fact that he is also deaf makes it even harder to watch as he went his entire life convincing others and himself that he is capable of doing anything a non-deaf person can do.
The switch between points of view allowed the audience to get to know not only how deafness has been talked about in history and how complete deafness has shaped these people’s lives, but also Jonas’s story on how he navigated hearing and music. Through this incredible story of the difference between how people interpret life, the beautiful concept of sound was introduced not just as a concrete thing, but something that can be channeled in many different ways.
Moonlight Sonata was a great add to the Mountainfilm lineup because with the theme of equity, the film showed that deaf people deserve the same opportunities to succeed as anybody else.