She’s a musical pioneer, a grande dame of her us of a’s song scene, the primary person within the international to file Bach’s complete harpsichord song. As a teen, she survived both Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen, wherein she got smaller the bubonic plague. As an adult, she lived thru the peak of the cold conflict in a communist us of a, beneath suspicion as a party nonmember and a Jew. Zuzana Rusickova, the Czech harpsichord participant, is 90 years vintage. Her tale seems like a film. Now, it is one.
“Zuzana: Music Is Life” is having its Washington most reliable Sunday at the Washington Jewish Film Festival, with a further screening Tuesday. It contains widespread interview pictures wherein Rusickova, in lilting English, describes her existence rely-of-factly, sitting on the desk in her kitchen, which seems like a time pill a few a long time old. She isn’t always unemotional when describing, for example, the death of her beloved cousin after their reunion in Bergen-Belsen at the stop of the struggle; however, she is normally composed, in counterpoint to the drama of her tale.
“She has constantly welcomed the possibility to speak about her studies to every person who requested,” says Emily Vogl, who, along with her husband, Frank, is one of the film’s government manufacturers. “She notion it becomes her duty to tell, so long as she should.”Interspersed through Ruzicka’s narrative are snippets of tune, some of which she plays on a vintage CD participant held collectively with tape.
With its message of perseverance and final triumph — a life lived nicely in music, through persecution to recognition and, eventually, to political freedom — the film is a global story. But it occurs to be, in a feel, a homegrown product. The Vols stay in Bethesda, as do Peter and Harriet Gordon Getzels, the husband-and-wife crew who directed the movie.
And prominently featured in the film, illustrating the harpsichord’s appeal to a brand new technology, is the younger harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani, a growing famous person who, some years in the past, decided that Ruzickova was the most effective musician with whom he desired to have a look at, and whom he controlled to talk into operating with him. Esfahani additionally occurs to have grown up in Bethesda, wherein his own family nevertheless lives.
It’s additionally a personal story, in extra ways than one. Frank Vogl is a cousin of Ruzickova’s, having met her as an infant in England and having gotten to recognize her, along with his wife, at some point of the years he was a foreign correspondent in Germany.
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Ruzickova released her career by way of triumphing the ARD competition in Munich in 1956, a bit greater than a decade after the camps (and the bubonic plague she contracted there) left her arms in such bad form that her instructor, searching for them at their first postwar reunion, started to cry. She persisted in Germany and different European countries, even though the communist government checked out her askance. However politically suspect she may additionally be, they wanted the overseas cash her performances delivered in. Despite their “deep friendship,” Frank Vogl says, “I had no concept of what she had long passed through, or become going through below communism.” It wasn’t till the Nineties when some other cousin performed interviews with Ruzickova that Vogl examines and found out the fact — and a notion that there should be a film.
Vogl changed into actually pitching every other film to the Getzels, who’re acclaimed freelance documentarians in an expansion of genres when Zuzana’s story came up. On his manner out the door, after discussing a film about corruption that they were hoping to work on together, he mentioned his cousin.
“Immediately, Harriet and I said, ‘We’ve got to make this movie,’ ” Peter Getzels says. “And we want to move right away. She turned into 87 at that factor. Let’s discover a manner to get some funding and move to a set of interviews. Let’s get her story within the can.”It proved to be the first of several Prague journeys, simultaneously as the Vols, who had already mounted a small foundation to help the paintings of Zuzana and her late husband, the acclaimed Czech composer Viktor Kalabis, learned at the fly away to be executive producers. The movie’s total finances changed to approximately $500,000. It may be better had Czech TV not stepped in as a collaborator, making to be had an in-depth archive, which includes footage of Ruzickova playing in her heyday. The result is a movie that tells the tale of 20th-century Czech records and conveys the harpsichord experience as a dwelling device. The crew’s goal turned into to finish it via Zuzana’s ninetieth birthday in January, and that month they brought the nearly finished movie to Prague and screened it for her. Ruzickova’s health is said to be fragile. However, the Getzels describe her as indomitable.
“She has illnesses,” Harriet Getzels says, “after which she has you over for tea, and after an hour and a half, you’re kicked out the door because someone has are available with a three-hundred-page tune manuscript they want her to examine. Then they’re kicked out due to the fact a taxi is ready to take her somewhere.”
Peter Getzels describes Ruzickova as “a force of nature” — albeit with a tart part. In the film, considered one of her students describes the venture of playing for her. During a lesson, if she wasn’t occupied by the tune, she pulled out an Agatha Christie thriller and started studying.
“I couldn’t help, however, ask her, a year later, what it became with the Agatha Christie,” Harriet Getzels says. “She stated, I assume he got it incorrect. I wasn’t studying Agatha Christie due to the fact the scholar wasn’t gambling well. But if he did play properly, I’d positioned it down.”
In other phrases, Ruzickova changed into ready to be astonished. Her story, which’s underneath attention for various different gala’s, tv declares, and cinematic distribution, is enough to make anyone put down an e-book and listen.