Six million Jewish men, women, and children were murdered in the Holocaust. Many family lines ended, but great lengths were taken to ensure each victim was not forgotten. François Girard’s The Song of Names is based on the novel by Norman Lebrecht and adapted by Jeffrey Caine. It’s easy to remember things, like lists, when put to song, so The Song of Names is a song of everyone who died at the hand of the Nazis.
The film opens in 1951 with a much-celebrated concert featuring a Polish Jewish virtuoso violinist, Dovidl Rapaport, who vanished just minutes before his debut in London. The canceled show would bankrupt Dovidl’s British host family and split our tale into two stories.
“As Dovidl’s family returns to Poland, his father leaves him in hopes of a better life and fulfilling his destiny.”
One story takes place in 1986, where we find Martin Simmonds (Tim Roth) unable to rest until he can locate his long lost “brother” Dovidl (Clive Owen). The first clue unsurfaces at a young person’s musical competition that Martin is judging and discovers a student who possesses the same mannerisms on violin as Dovidl. This clue sends Martin to Dovidl’s homeland of Poland.
The other story begins sadly and tragically just before the start of World War II, where Martin’s (Misha Handley) family takes in a violin prodigy, Dovidl (Luke Doyle), who will be taught to be the most excellent violinist. As Dovidl’s family returns to Poland, his father leaves him in hopes of a better life and fulfilling his destiny. Young Martin does not like the fact that he’s going to have a new “brother” and resents the attention his music publisher father, Gilbert (Stanley Townsend), gives to Dovidl.
Over time, Dovidl is groomed for greatness. He is given a rare violin for his bar mitzvah by Gilbert, but in the back of his mind are memories of his real family, who he hasn’t heard from since the war began. While Dovidl and Martin’s relationship is contentious at times, the two become quite close. One poignant moment between now older Martin and Dovidl (Gerran Howell and Jonah Hauer-King, respectively) is when Dovidl goes to the synagogue to renounce his Judaism.
"…both are down to earth guys relying on emotion and tension to tell most of their stories."