24 Preludes for a Fugue is the first authorized documentary about prominent composer Arvo Pärt to be released on DVD. A portrait made of precious moments recorded during three prolific years of the composer’s life, the film features rehearsals, premieres, seminars, meetings and recollections. Director Dorian Supin succeeds in revealing Arvo Pärt’s musical thinking. His work opens a door on the inner world of one of the most spiritually intense composers of our time.
Crucially, Supin is the brother of Nora Pärt, Arvo’s wife, allowing him access to the small, seemingly mundane details that make up the composer’s day-to-day existence. Some of the scenes are less than 30 seconds. The vignette titled “Tomatoes with Sugar,” for example, consists of Arvo and Nora sitting on a porch eating tomatoes as Arvo explains that as a child his parents served tomatoes with sugar, rather than salt. Other vignettes show Pärt’s connection with the broader musical world. In a haunting scene, Pärt is seen observing a performance of his work in a vast Estonian church. The camera moves shakily from the composer’s stern gaze to the clarinetists situated at the far end of the building. As they finish, the lead player consults with Pärt as if he is speaking to a hardened general. With these stark juxtapositions of different facets of the composer’s life, one leaves the movie with a sense that Arvo Pärt is, above all else, a human being – not necessarily more complex, troubled, or satisfied than any one of us. He tells meandering stories about his childhood, laughs with his friends, speaks earnestly about his music, and maintains a tender relationship with his wife. As Pärt’s music and persona have seeped into popular culture, most accounts tend to frame him as a stoic, guarded individual that channels the Orthodox Church. 24 Preludes for a Fugue shows exactly the opposite. It says nothing definitive about the man and says everything that it should
The film is enhanced by excerpts from major musical works such as "Tabula Rasa", "Passio", "Fratres", "Orient & Occident", "Cecilia, vergine romana" and "Como cierva sedienta".