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Beethoven's Hair

Traces the journey of a lock of Beethoven's hair, culminating in the scientific analysis that reveals Beethoven's medical secret.


A printer-friendly version of this page 84 minutes
Directed by Larry Weinstein
Produced by Jody Shapiro, Larry Weinstein, Jessica Daniel
Executive Producers: Daniel Iron, Niv Fichman and Daniel Krausz
Writer: Thomas Wallner
Director of Photography: Horst Zeidler
Editor: David New
Consultant: Russell Martin
A Rhombus Media/Dor Film Production





"Displays the exquisite edge of Weinstein's masterful storytelling." David McIntosh, Hot Docs Program
BEETHOVEN'S HAIR traces the unlikely journey of a lock of hair cut from Beethoven's corpse and unravels the mystery of his tortured life and death. The film begins in modern times when a pair of Beethoven enthusiasts, Ira Brilliant and Dr. Alfredo "Che" Guevara, purchase the hair at a Sotheby's auction. As the story unfolds, it follows the past generations of owners, culminating in the futuristic science that reveals Beethoven's "medical secret". Set to a lush score of some of Beethoven's most glorious music, the film explores the world of forensic testing in sharp relief against the romance of 19th century Vienna and the horrors of 20th century Nazi Germany.

Based on Russell Martin's bestselling book, this is the story of characters separated by time and place, whose only connection is an odd relic that touched each of their lives. Along the way, BEETHOVEN'S HAIR sheds new light upon the cause of Beethoven's various maladies, including his deafness, as well as accounting for his volatile personality and perhaps even the nature of his art.



Grade Level: 7-12, College, Adult
US Release Date: 2006     Copyright Date: 2005
DVD ISBN: 1-59458-354-4     VHS ISBN: 1-59458-353-6




Reviews
"Alternately quirky and poignant, Beethoven's Hair displays the exquisite edge of Weinstein's masterful storytelling."
David McIntosh, Hot Docs Program

"Several rich strands are intertwined in Beethoven's Hair, a musical mystery tour starring a hard-traveling forelock from Ludwig Van. Side trips into the Holocaust, kitschy Americana, and up-to-the-minute science give breadth to this tale of musical obsession, which never loses sight of the genius that generates the action. This most recent feature from Larry Weinstein (who received a retroretro tribute at Hot Docs, drawn from the Rhombus Media founder's 20 pics in as many years) deserves noisy fanfare at music-minded fests...Beethoven's music, beautifully performed by musicians in the Czech Republic (where most of the nicely lit restagings took place) add to the drama, while deft sound design and editing add smooth textures across the board."
Ken Eisner, Variety

"Told in a splendidly imaginative manner, the narrative moves through the intriguing milieu of Vienna in the 19th century, to the terrible drama of the Second World War, and right up to the world of contemporary science and a sort of CSI forensics plot. Even if you have zero interest in Beethoven, the true story of what happened to that lock of hair is way stranger than fiction."
John Doyle, The (Toronto) Globe and Mail

"Superbly edited... A splendid film for people who care about Beethoven and modern medicine. In case either music historians or scientists doubt whether the hair in question was actually Beethoven's, subsequent testing of bone fragments absolutely known to have belonged to him produced the same results. This film can sit comfortably with other documentaries in library collections and is absorbingly accessible enough to be used in library film programs for general audiences. Highly Recommended."
Educational Media Reviews Online

"Forensic crime-solving dramas may be all the rage on network television, but Larry Weinstein's cheeky little documentary Beethoven's Hair...is a definite cut above...Beethoven's Hair is a fascinating detective story, well told. Highly Recommended."
Video Librarian's Best Documentaries of the Year List

"Authentic re-enactments bring to life 19th-century Vienna, while historic footage from World War II and interviews with Holocaust survivors help capture the horrors of that era...[This film] demonstrates the unraveling of a historical mystery using forensics and physics."
School Library Journal

"Weinstein's artful composer biopic succeeds in braiding all strands of his story into one compelling narrative. It maintains its aura of mystery until the heartwarming resolution...Highly recommended."
Bonnie Jo Dopp, University of Maryland Library, Library Journal


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Awards and Festivals
Video Librarian's Best Documentaries of the Year List
Festival Director's Prize, Golden Prague International Television Film Festival
Best Direction, Writing, Sound, Gemini Awards
Hot Docs Documentary Film Festival, Toronto
International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam
South by Southwest Film Festival
FIFA, International Festival of Films on Art, Montreal
Philadelphia International Film Festival
Atlantic Film Festival, Halifax
Banff Television Festival
Victoria Independent Film Festival, Vancouver
Big Sky Documentary Film Festival
Flanders Film Festival, The Netherlands
Real Life on Film, Australia
Docpoint, Helsinki Documentary Film Festival
Black Bear Film Festival
Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival

Subjects
Anthropology
Biography
European Studies
Health
History
Humanities
Mental Health
Music
Performing Arts
Science
Technology
Society

Toxic Chemicals


Related Titles

Beethoven's Hair (Short Version)
Traces the journey of a lock of Beethoven's hair, and reveals Beethoven's medical secret.

Ravel's Brain
Evokes and explores Ravel's illness-plagued final years, when he was able to produce music but couldn't write it down.

Ravel
Brilliant portrait of the composer's elusive life.

The War Symphonies
Shostakovich's musical counter-attack on Stalin's bloody purges.

Shadows and Light
An intimate portrait of the remarkable Spanish composer, Rodrigo.

My War Years
Portrait of the 20th century's most influential composer.

Solidarity Song
The great, but little known, 20th century composer, persecuted for his communism.

Schumann's Lost Romance
Cellist Steven Isserlis investigates the final years of Schumann's life.

Stormy Weather:
Some of today's most original recording artists perform the work of famed composer Harold Arlen.


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