Can music help heal trauma?
“Chopin. I Am Not Afraid of Darkness” spotlights three musicians who have been positively impacted by the work of Polish composer and virtuoso pianist Frédéric Chopin as they prepare to perform his compositions in three unexpected places. Using their personal experiences as a vehicle to discuss the painful historical events of their home countries, director Joanna Kaczmarek creates an unforgettable portrait of music’s power to transform and heal.
Intriguingly, the pianists aren’t formally introduced in the film. They are nameless for the duration they are on screen. Their names appearing only on the film’s poster and in the final credits.
On the one hand, this creates a sense of singularity between the pianists and their environments and the historical traumas discussed (the Holocaust, the Korean War, and the Syrian Civil War) where so many individuals perished nameless or without the ability to embrace their identities.
On the other hand, knowing who the musicians are adds greater context to the power of their words–and they are indeed powerful words. The musicians featured aren’t amateurs but highly respected multi-award winning pianists. They are Leszek Możdżer from Poland, Jae-Yeon Won from South Korea, and Fares Marek Basmadji from Aleppo, Syria. They speak with wisdom that is thought-provoking and moving and you can’t help but want to know more about who they are.
It’s fascinating listening to each of the musicians speak and seeing their different personalities come through on screen. They come from very diverse backgrounds but are united in their appreciation for Chopin and the therapeutic potential of music. The film really speaks to how beautiful the arts are and the ability of music to bring people together who otherwise might be worlds apart.
“Chopin. I Am Not Afraid of Darkness” focuses on Leszek, Jae-Yeon, and Fares as the prepare to hold concerts in locations of immense human tragedy and suffering: Auschwitz-Birkenau, the border of North and South Korea, and the center of Beirut following the devastating 2020 port explosion where 218 people died.
It is emotional, profound, and humbling.
Featuring stunning aerial photography, “Chopin. I Am Not Afraid of Darkness” is a cinematic and absorbing viewing experience. The cinematography captures the brutality of humanity and the feeling of despair, while also capturing the peacefulness of nature and the inspiring resilience of the human spirit.
A must-watch film for music students and lovers of the arts, “Chopin. I Am Not Afraid of Darkness” instills in viewers a strong affection for how music can help heal the soul and a deep appreciation for the musicians who recognize the significance of their talents to comfort those who have experienced trauma and heartbreak.
Sometimes a light in the dark is literally music to the ears.