The Song of Names is another violin story from Francois Girard, the director of The Red Violin. Under the guise of receiving violin lessons and as an escape from the looming inevitability of the Polish Nazi invasion and Holocaust, young Dovidl, played as an adult by Clive Owen, finds himself being raised in a British family. Martin, played by Tim Roth, is resentful of another boy entering his privileged family. The two boys, however, find their way and are soon like brothers. Dovidl proves to be a child prodigy and at the age of 19 is poised to play a debut concert. What unfolds—Dovidl’s disappearance—leaves Martin undone as he lives the next decades haunted and angered by his adopted brother’s vanishing. The movie straddles three decades as the story of the boys’ separation is pieced back together.
The title finds its source in the Treblinka concentration camp survivors’ commitment to sing the names of those who died into song in order to keep them in their memory and in order to honour the Kaddish, the sacred responsibility to the dead.
Unlike most movies in this genre, the horror of the Holocaust, albeit deeply felt, is never visually experienced. The closest one comes to experiencing it is in an air raid bunker in London.
Based on the novel of the same title by Norman Lebrecht with an outstanding music score by Howard Shore (Lord of the Rings), The Song of Names well deserves the nominations and awards it has been given. (Sony, now streaming on Amazon Prime)