10th February 2012
Noces, the French film by producer Philippe Béziat about the friendship between composer Igor Stravinsky and the novelist Charles-Ferdinand Ramuz has been released in France to rave reviews.
Ramuz wrote “Souvenirs sur Igor Stravinsky” several years after his collaboration with the composer on Les Noces, in Switzerland in 1916.
The film takes place in the present day, on the shores of Lac Léman where a comedian and a conductor put on a performance of Les Noces. Whilst rehearsing the music to bring it back to life, the musicians read extracts from “Souvenirs sur Igor Stravinsky” which relate the collaboration between the two artists, the birth of Les Noces, their writing secrets and, above all, the importance of the encounter in Ramuz’s own life as an artist.
At the end of the film, singers, pianists, percussionists and the full choir perform Les Noces in one go, from start to finish.
Watch the trailer here
Read the full synopsis below
Today, somewhere in the Vaud region of Switzerland, musicians are rehearsing Les Noces (The Wedding) by Igor Stravinsky.
Between 1916 and 1922, the Russian musician, an émigré right here on the shores of Lake Geneva, composed Les Noces (along with Renard and L'histoire du soldat) with the help of a famous Vaudois poet and novelist, Charles-Ferdinand Ramuz. The creation of an original libretto in French from Russian poems, their close collaboration and the sharing of simple moments gave birth to a strong friendship between the two artists.
Today, while rehearsing the music to bring it back to life, the musicians read extracts from Souvenirs sur Igor Stravinsky, a book in which Ramuz relates this collaboration, the birth of Les Noces, their writing secrets and, above all, the importance of this encounter in his own life as an artist.
The rehearsals begin in a small studio with blue walls, with just a few people, like a research project. Two friends of the pianist and conductor, one an actress, the other a video artist, also take part. It’s a sort of laboratory. Ramuz relates that when he and Stravinsky started work, also in a small blue room filled with instruments, and tried to marry words to musical notes, it was also a sort of laboratory.
In rehearsal, the musicians work on different elements separately, then assemble them. As the days pass, one, then two and three singers arrive, percussionists too, other pianists and the number of musicians increases, and the walls of the blue studio have to be pushed back. The composition of Les Noces by Stravinsky also underwent a process of growth and expansion. This is revealed by the extracts from Ramuz’s book that the musicians continue to read in the course of the rehearsals.
Ramuz tells us about the project that came into being in the minds of two artists. The project that we now see brought back to life thanks to the musicians follows a parallel and similar path. There are numerous echoes between the two.
At the end of the film, singers, pianists, percussionists and the full choir perform Les Noces in one go, from start to finish. The empiricism of the rehearsals and readings gives way to the logic, order and power of the finished work. The sounds and words heard recover their place and meaning.
But the story also relates a third parallel trajectory, that of a writer caught up in a process of self-revelation, that of Ramuz thanks to Stravinsky. At the end of rehearsals, the work can be performed. At the end of the path travelled, Ramuz was able to write his Souvenirs, as if to get this accomplishment down on paper, this thing that he had found or rediscovered, namely himself. Do musicians do anything other than seek themselves through the works that they perform? This is no longer a “country” wedding (the original motif) but the mystic wedding of musicians playing together and of men communing.
At Stravinsky’s side, Ramuz followed the path to modernity. His work is as beautiful as a confession. As musical performers or members of a film’s audience, don’t we all expect to be freed by a work or by an artist?