Search - O Thou Transcendent: The Life of Ralph Vaughan Williams on DVD


O Thou Transcendent: The Life of Ralph Vaughan Williams
O Thou Transcendent The Life of Ralph Vaughan Williams
Actors: Thomas Allen, Jill Balcon, Barbara Dickson, English Chamber Orchestra, Brian Kay
Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Educational, Musicals & Performing Arts, Documentary
NR     2008     2hr 28min

Produced by the multi-award winning director Tony Palmer, this is the first ever full-length film biography on Ralph Vaughan Williams. This film features interviews with many of those who knew and worked with him, includin...  more »

     
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Movie Details

Actors: Thomas Allen, Jill Balcon, Barbara Dickson, English Chamber Orchestra, Brian Kay
Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Educational, Musicals & Performing Arts, Documentary
Sub-Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Educational, Classical, Documentary
Studio: Tony Palmer Films
Format: DVD - Color
DVD Release Date: 02/26/2008
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2007
Release Year: 2008
Run Time: 2hr 28min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 0
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

The British are coming!
Zinta Aistars | Portage, MI United States | 02/26/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"When a British friend asked what I knew of classic British composer, R. Vaughan Williams, I blinked. That would be ... nothing. Although, as it turned out, when he speedily sent me a two-and-a-half-hour video to educate me, I did know more than nothing. I just didn't know that I knew. But as the documentary unfolded, my ear picked up a string of symphonies and a few sweeter melodies that I had known quite well. Only, shame on me, without giving due credit.

So this is R. Vaughan Williams. With gorgeous scenery that made me want to book a ticket to the United Kingdom, but now, as backdrop, a kind of mix of biography and history and imagined perception (the composer's) unfolded. This is the place and time that formed the musician that created the music. Indeed, to know and see all of this enriches understanding and appreciation of the music. Williams is often called a composer of folk melodies with a classical slant, but the documentary, interspersing soaring orchestras with crashing waves--the Sea Symphonies were easily my favorite--and gruesome war scenes and interview snippets with doddering, elderly British ladies, speaking of the composer's bushy eyebrows and tormented marriage (he loved his wife, but soon after marriage, her failing health became a primary issue), proves the point most eloquently that Williams is far more than folk tune composer. He is a composer on a grand scale. He has written scores for movies in his time, music that climbs mountains and builds suspense and melts into romance. He has composed symphonies that are complex and gorgeous. He can write the sweet melody that resonates in your mind all day long, but he can also write the sweep of crashing symphony that shakes the listener to the core ... as only powerful music can.

The video is long and highly detailed, but a visual treat as well as informative. I now know not only the music, but the man and the history behind it. The British are welcome here.
"
Mostly Interesting
J. MILLER | Los Angeles, CA USA | 01/29/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)

"Mostly interesting documentary nearly ruined by the sporadic and utterly unnecessary use of exceedingly disturbing current-day images of dead, battered babies and emaciated children with flies crawling inside their sores. The filmmaker is making the point that RVW's music often reflects the harrowing human condition. Fine. But we don't need a sledgehammer to the head--swung several times--to comprehend this!"
An engrossing and moving overview
Orgelbear | 02/14/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Tony Palmer's film biography of Vaughan Williams presents the composer as a complicated genius and noble spirit who endured much frustration, disappointment, and tragedy in his life and expressed it in his music...a far cry from the popular image of RVW as sentimental folk tune recycler. The narrative is put forward using interviews and file voiceovers (most notably from RVW himself, his widow Ursula, and biographer Michael Kennedy, but including a wide, and sometimes surprising, group of talking heads). Beautifully filmed and leisurely paced, the film helps confirm Vaughan Williams as one of Europe's (not just England's) greatest 20th century composers. Excerpts from musical performances--newly recorded as well as file footage--give strong implicit evidence that Vaughan Williams was also a great symphonist. Palmer makes a mistake with the use of graphic late 20th- and 21st-century war and famine footage in an attempt to reinforce his otherwise well-founded argument that RVW's music is tragically pessimistic and relevant in the modern world; however, these few moments are only a small blemish on a highly successful and personal portrait. Highly recommended."
Five Stars, if not for graphic Footage
S. Kohn | Cleveland, OH | 08/29/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)

"This is really a well-made and important piece on one of my favorite composers. I was going to have my eight-year old son watch it with me. I'm glad I didn't. The film maker included very graphic and disturbing film images of dead and dying children to emphasize the horrors of war. I really believe this hurt the film. The horrors of war could have been depicted in a way that did not draw us too far away from the subject matter, which is a great composer and his music. At the end, it was the gruesome images of tragedy and destruction that stayed with me, not the man and his transcendent music. I'm not against powerful images and shaking things up when necessary, but the film maker, for all of his good work, crossed the line to the point where his creation left me angry and disturbed, not enlightened and inspired. A few substituted scenes could have made the point and still kept the focus on the composer and his work. I would have given it 5 stars otherwise."