Review
'Chopin's Story by Ian Gillan from Deep Purple'
Marcin Rybacki

Chopin - DVD cover The world of Rock and Roll pays homage to its Classical predecessors in the documentary entitled 'Chopin's Story by Ian Gillan from Deep Purple'. Narrated by Ian Gillan of the Rock band Deep Purple, the film takes you on a journey of the key people, moments and places of Polish composer - Frederic Chopin.

Directed and produced by Jerzy Szkamruk, the film transports the viewer back to 19th century Warsaw, rural estate of Szafarnia, and K?óbka amongst other places that were shaping the virtuosity of young Chopin. Mr. Szkamruk accentuates the scenes using brilliant camera work and aerial perspective, which portrays Polish landscapes in a breathtaking way. All of it is supported by a handful of unintrusive visual effects which do not blur the film's natural sequencing of events. The documentary so far has won four awards including the prestigious 'The Best Documentary' Brazilian award at Tourfilm International Festival in Florianopolis, 2011. 'Chopin's Story…' is not Mr. Szkamruk's first film dedicated to the Polish composer. In 2010 he also directed and produced another documentary on Chopin entitled 'Fryderyk 2010' which has also been numerously awarded.

Scored at Pawel Betley's 'Ztduio', the documentary presents Chopin's genre-defining music in two aspects - original form as well as the cunningly covered one. The latter features compositions of Maria Pomianowska's 'Chopin on Five Continents' blatantly showcasing the transcendental value of Chopin's art. The former alludes more to Chopin's Polish national identity and appears in the scenes inseparable to Polish national spirit. Chopin's music is neither overemphasized nor underemphasized in the film, which adds a feeling of balance to the overall viewing pleasure.

The vast majority of film's strength lies in its ability to translate Chopin's world through vivid, picturesque shots of Polish landscapes. As if painted by the Impressionists of late, the colouring 'attacks' the viewer with its intensity and saturation. Mind-feeding, 'Cézannesque' hues accompany each and every scene creating altogether almost painted-like view which wonderfully contributes to the film's positive reception.

Gillan introduces the journey by taking you to the year 1863 and event that forever engraved Chopin's music into the Polish national spirit. In smooth, deep, and natural English, the singer of Deep Purple expertly narrates the Polish years of Frederic Chopin and his influence on popular music of the day. Gillan compares Chopin's influence of his piano playing to Jimi Hendrix's impact on guitar playing of the late 1960's. Chopin's ability to improvise at such an early age infused classical music with new life and thus his music became cosmopolitan. Gillan's narration focuses on two aspects that shaped Chopin's artistic self - Urban which was significant, full of splendor; and Rural, most primal, traditional and spontaneous. Born and moulded in the Age of Reason, Chopin created his renowned pieces in Romanticism and it would not have been possible for him to do that had it not been for the two, aforementioned aspects of Polish culture. Gillan does not 'hijack' the documentary with his 'role' and admirably pays his respects to Chopin. It really is impressive for Gillan, still a novice in cinematography to record his narration in the first take, and being able to persuasively apply his intonation to the nature of events discussed. In his prime, Chopin had many friends and followers all over the world some of whom were other classical pianists. Thus, Gillan quotes fragments of Chopin's letters to his friends as well as the writings of some other famous classical composers. Frederic Chopin's Polish years date from 1810 to 1830. On November 2, 1830 just before the second national revolt broke out, Chopin left Poland for good taking with him everything he had embraced in his fatherland which later on in Paris became apparent and emerged in his famous classical pieces.

'Chopin's Story by Ian Gillan from Deep Purple' is not Ian's first encounter with classical music. If you can recollect, he used to be a boy soprano in a church choir, performed 'Concerto for Group and Orchestra' with Deep Purple, sang 'Nessun Dorma' with Luciano Pavarotti in 2001 and 2003, to name just a few. If it were not enough, Gillan was on the verge of having a brief 'affair' with cinematography.

After the spine-tingling interpretation of Jesus in 'Jesus Christ Superstar' Ian was asked to play the role of Jesus in the rock opera's adaptation. Deep Purple were on the verge of artistic success at the time as well, and Ian's priority, so he naturally turned down the offer. This time, though not necessarily less busy than 40 years ago, Ian decided to take his chances to narrate and present the story of Frederic Chopin - one of the greatest musical geniuses in the history of music.

The original idea of inviting Gillan by Roman Rogowiecki, the assistant director - to do the narration and host the film gives us, the fans, a chance to listen to his voice and see him in totally new surroundings adding yet another twist to Chopin's music. Gillan's natural ability to be highly presentable is well-known to his audience and adds some sort of a thrill to the whole experience. By means of his voice and non-verbal medium, Gillan has achieved an altogether difficult thing albeit lost absolutely nothing of his artistry.

As a word of conclusion, this entertaining work of art describes Poland's historical reality in detail though not focusing much on events that could remain vague to general audience, which is a plus. Is there any message in the film? I would firmly say that the filmmakers successfully transposed into the documentary the way rural and urban Poland and its diverse cultural peculiarities shaped the young composer At present, Chopin remains one of the most celebrated musicians of all time and his aficionados tend to forget how much 'Polishness' there is in his music.

As for our hospitable presenter Ian Gillan, well, he has remained remarkably in tune with both Polish nationality and a musician's worldwide integrity. This alone makes of the documentary a worthwhile watch.

Marcin Rybacki