Every 5 years, young piano prodigies from all over the world flock to Warsaw to test their mettle and skills in one of the most prestigious piano competitions on earth, the Chopin Piano Competition.  For contestants, the competition is not just about the €40,000 cash prize.  After all, as one contestant puts it, the prize money can be spent and you can still die impoverished and unknown.  Instead, its is the esteem that comes with placing 1st, and the countless opportunities for the future that are offered to the winners.
In Pianoforte, Jakub Piatek follows a handful of aspiring young pianists as they struggle through a grueling twenty one day contest which pits 87 pianists from 18 different countries against one another.  Each subject is more interesting than the last, each one with their own unique traits and eccentricities that make them seem plucked from some music themed shonen manga.  It is almost impossible not to be enraptured by each and every one of them.  You wish that you could see every single one of them succeed, but are conflicted by the knowledge that one can take home the 1st place award.

Pianoforte Review - Sundance 2023

About halfway into Jakub Piatek’s film, a relative of Chinese contestant Hao Rao tries to give comfort and encouragement by reciting a hundred year old proverb that reads In English it roughly translates to something like ‘It is better to walk 10,000 miles than to read 10,000 books’ (or 讀萬券書不如行萬里路.  in Chinese).  It’s a phrase that is interesting not just for the lively debates by literary scholars over its original author and wording, but also for how it can be applied to modern society.

In today’s world, we have become content with living our dreams vicariously through others, whether it be through podcasts, movies or any of the ever-growing number of social media influencers that pop in and check on us throughout our day.  It is easy to be content with the idea that there are more qualified and deserving people than ourselves, and that the spoils of life should rightfully be bestowed upon them.  However, by living our lives through the experiences of others, we miss out on many of life’s lessons.

The participants in Warsaw’s Chopin Competition wouldn’t gain any sense of fulfillment from just reading through sheet music or listening to others play.  Instead, they are willing to sacrifice everything in order to gain the life experience that can only come from walking 10,000 miles.  Pianoforte is an inspiring film that wants you to dream, and dares you to achieve said dream.  Go out and see this film, even if you have to walk 10,000 miles to do it.

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Ty Cooper
Ty Cooper lives in Asia and spends most his time drifting through the streets of Taiwan imagining he is Shotaro Kaneda in Akira. Once a year he takes on the unyielding snow storm that is Sundance and attempts to capture a glimpse at what the upcoming year in film has to offer. Ty first started writing for HeyUGuys after SXSW in 2010.
pianoforte-reviewPianoforte is an inspiring film that wants you to dream, and dares you to achieve that dream.  Go out and see this film, even if you have to walk 10,000 miles to do it.