Pianists do not participate in Warsaw’s International Chopin Piano Competition only for the prize money but rather to establish themselves as future stars. The ”Piano Olympics” organised every five years attract victory-hungry youngsters from around the world to participate in the 21-day marathon competition. Seen at the Sundance Film Festival, Pianoforte depicts the competition, which requires extreme mental endurance, with the touch of a sports film.
Director Jakub Piatek is particularly interested in the moments before and after a performance and the storm of emotions on the contestants’ faces. Along the way, we get to witness moments when the dimming flame bursts into full fire and a competitor rediscovers their love of music, which has become routine amid rehearsals. Chopin’s music is not only technically demanding, but it also forces the disciplined youngsters to draw on deep emotions, which they might not even have faced yet in their lives.
Mistakes are not made in a competition at this level. The pressure to succeed is huge, and victory is settled by how the young contestants are able to handle the stress of the competition. The bar for going onstage can grow too large, and insecurity seeps into the playing of even the most confident musicians. “The winner can invest their prize money straight to therapy,” Italian contestant Leonora Armellini describes the emotional toll of the competition.
Emilia Koivumäki (translated by Inari Ylinen)