Entertainment and Arts

Leonard Bernstein’s Story Unfolds in ‘Maestro’

By: Russ Matthews and Christian Valenzuela

Only a handful of films over the past year have had such a singular vision behind them that the end product ebbs and flows like a beautiful composition crafted by a passionate and complex composer.

Maestro is that composition. Although Bradley Cooper is no stranger to the director’s chair, having made a splashing debut with the acclaimed A Star Is Born (2018), his eye for breathtaking shots and direction for intimate performances has never been on display more than here.

For those unaware, American composer Leonard Bernstein (Bradley Cooper) is often regarded as one of the most talented and successful musicians in American history. His best-known work is the Broadway musical West Side Story, which continues to be performed worldwide. He also composed three original symphonies and the score for Elia Kazan’s Academy Award-winning feature film, On the Waterfront.

Yet, music is only one of the primary focusses of this film; instead, this screenplay centres on the relationship between Bernstein and actress Felicia Montealegre (Carey Mulligan). A biographical sketch that navigates through their marriage, sickness, and, most notably, their love for family and classical music that holds them together. Yet, despite the composer’s legendary success in all areas of music, the storyline unpacks his personal struggles with his fame, homosexual background, and how to rectify these elements with his family life.

From the very first frame, Cooper’s passion and love for cinema, as well as the life of Leonard Bernstein, shines right through. Every shot is beautifully handcrafted by cinematographer Matthew Libatique, as he takes us through different stages of Bernstein’s life using various visual techniques that pay homage to past eras of cinema. Despite Cooper’s presence behind the camera, he and Carey Mulligan deliver such subtle, tragic, and nuanced performances on screen. Much like the awkward and emotional conversations of the natural world, Cooper and Mulligan’s performances say the most when they aren’t saying anything at all. The film takes time to slow down and focus on reaction more than action. In these moments, the audience forgets these are actors in production but instead real people struggling with the complexities of life and romance.

Lastly, in a film based on the life of a famed conductor composer, it would be a crime not to mention the soundtrack that invites the audience further into the life of Bernstein. The film has no original music. Each piece the audience hears throughout the film is a handpicked composition from Bernstein’s collection of work expertly performed by the London Symphony Orchestra under conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

Maestro rides the incredibly precise line of being more than a film, more than a collection of efforts by a talented cast and crew, but instead a love letter to a man and his music. The performances are so subtle and grounded that the audience is forced to reflect on their emotions and complex relationships. The visuals are breathtaking, and the soundtrack is performed so well that the audience will leave the theatre with a calling to know more about the man behind the orchestra.

REEL DIALOGUE: What does the Bible say about protecting marriage?

Bradley Cooper and Carey Mulligan in Meastro

It is hard to avoid discussing marriage since the film focusses on the relationship between Leonard Bernstein and Felicia Montealegre. Yet, like most marriages, aspects of the couple’s lives can derail the strongest of relationships. As secrets and infidelity infiltrate their marriage, it may make one ponder where to find answers to these struggles.

Some may think that the Bible does not have the answers to the questions surrounding marriage or adultery. Thankfully, God does not leave this question unanswered on either subject. The Bible gives us direct answers to the question of protecting marriage. It is easy to find the answers; even Jesus shares specific answers with people when asked.

“Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” – Matthew 14:4-6

Most people might not know that marriage was God’s idea and is a blessing to mankind. There is freedom within his paradigm, but God does have a paradigm. Anyone’s opinion that differs from the Bible and/or Jesus’ statement on marriage is merely their opinion. It puts them at odds with God’s view of the matter. The Bible’s answers are accessible to all for consideration, but the reader must choose what to believe.

If you would like to discuss the topic of marriage and God, reach out to us at Third Space. We would love to chat with you about this and more.


Article supplied with thanks to City Bible Forum.

All images: Movie stills

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