6 of the best classical music-themed films on Netflix
From The Soloist to The Perfection, Oliver Condy picks six of the best classical music-themed films on Netflix right now
Classical music doesn’t get a huge look-in on Netflix, given how many films and series are on there. But a little persistence brings up some gems, some more family-orientated than others (do look out for the suitability ratings before showing to all and sundry). Here are six of the best music-themed films currently on the streaming site.
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The Soloist (2009)
Based on a true story, The Soloist stars Robert Downey Jr as Los Angeles Times journalist Steve Lopez who discovers the homeless Nathaniel Ayers (Jamie Foxx), a former Juilliard music student, busking with a two-stringed violin under a statue of Beethoven in Los Angeles. Lopez discovers that Ayers used to be cellist until his schizophrenia forced him out of music college and onto the streets, his cello long gone. A heart-warming tale of the power of music.
Playing for Time (1980)
Vanessa Redgrave stars in this tale based on musician Fania Fénelon’s autobiography The Musicians of Auschwitz and was adapted for a CBS TV film by playwright Arthur Miller. Set in Poland in the Nazi concentration camp, Playing for Time revolves around a group of female prisoners who find that they are spared hard labour if they join the camp’s orchestra. Brilliantly, atmospherically filmed. Watch Playing for Time on Netflix now
Four Minutes (2006)
Four Minutes is set in a German female prison and tells of a piano teacher who gives lessons to one of the inmates. Dark and dramatic, this German-language film doesn’t shy away from some hard themes, but its musical portrayals are convincing, making for a satisfying watch. The acting is uniformly excellent. Watch Four Minutes on Netflix here
A Noble Intention (2015)
A Noble Intention, also known by the title Public Works, is set in Amsterdam in 1888. A large hotel is planned for the city centre to cater for the huge rise in visitors since the building of the main railway station – but a small violin maker’s shop sits on the site. Offers are made to buy the craftsman out, but it’s clear from early on in the film that he has no intention of budging. Beautifully filmed and acted, A Noble Intention has bags of atmosphere. Watch A Noble Intention on Netflix now
A love triangle sits at the heart of this award-winning Taiwanese film, set in a music school in the present day. Piano prodigy Ye Xianglun is on a tour of the school when he hears a student playing a mysterious melody in a nearby practice room. Xianglun heads to the room where the player, fellow-pupil Lu Xiaoyu, informs him that the secret of the melody can never be revealed… Secret is a compelling film with some charming musical references. Well worth a watch. Watch Secret on Netflix here
The Perfection (2018)
Hallucinogenic drugs? Check. Gruesome amputations? Check. Gratuitous kidnappings? Yes indeed. And a good deal more. This bundle of fun is set in the dog-eat-dog cello world of a fictional Boston conservatoire, before moving to China and Minneapolis. The denouement is, shall we say, not for the faint-hearted. Music-themed it may be, but this psychological – and actual – horror is a tricky pill to swallow. Firmly rated 18 in the UK. You’ve been warned. Watch The Perfection on Netflix here
Oliver Condy is the former Editor of BBC Music Magazine, a post he held for 17 years. His debut book, Symphonies of the Soul: Classical Music to Cure Any Ailment, will be released in November 2021 with Octopus Books. He is also a semi-professional organist, having previously given recitals in Bach’s churches across Germany.