Opening in theaters everywhere in November and December, The Overture is a thrilling and totally engrossing film about both an artist’s passion for his music and also his unrelenting commitment to protect the human need to express that passion. Think of a Thai combination of the dedication of Mr. Holland's Opus mixed in with the passion of Ray and you get some sense of the pure joy that music brings to its lead character–and to those of us in the audience.

The Overture is a fictional biography inspired by events in the life of legendary Thai musician Luang Pradit Pairoh (called Sorn in the film). Divided in two parallel stories, The Overture covers two separate epochs in Sorn’s life: the first story arc is set during the musician’s early years and the second covers the final moments of his life, when Thailand was under Japanese occupation.

Born in remote rural Siam in the late 19th century, Sorn, the youngest son in a family of musicians, displays a remarkable passion for music — and an astonishing facility for playing the wooden xylophone known as the ranad. As a young child, Sorn chases a butterfly which lands on the ranad and begins to play instinctively. Following a family tragedy, Sorn is forbidden by his father to play; however, the young prodigy studies in secret, quickly eclipsing a talented older sibling. This dedication inspires his father, however reluctantly, to take him on as a formal pupil.

As he matures into a young man, Sorn’s musical gifts win him great regional acclaim, but his adolescent pride also leads him to an early defeat when he attempts to challenge Thailand’s legendary ranad master, Khun In, to a musical duel during his first visit to the bustling capital city of Bangkok.

Returning home haunted by his defeat, Sorn redoubles his dedication to his music, and develops a revolutionary new ranad technique that eventually wins him national respect, appointment as a royal court musician, and another shot at his old nemesis Khun In. Sorn’s greatest challenge, however, comes in the final years of his career, when political change in Thailand threatens to outlaw the musical traditions to which he has dedicated his life.

(According to the director, it took quite a long time to cast the actors for The Overture, mainly because the actor who would play Sorn, the main character of the film, had to be able to play lead xylophone and other kinds of Thai musical instruments as well. Initially, he looked at actors who could really play Thai musical instruments, but couldn’t find anyone appropriate for the role. Then he began to look at actors who had enough time to devote to learning and practicing these musical instruments. The role finally fell to Anuchit Saphanphong, who, although had never played Thai musical instruments before, had enough skill to get a feel for the music’s rhythms.)

The character of Sorn in The Overture reminds of us that some of us are born into lives so that we can learn, grow, and evolve while some others come to life with a particular mission to accomplish. When one is born with that particular sense of being here to do something specific, there is no denying it’s overwhelming dominion in one’s heart. Try as one might at times, that mission blazes brightly in one’s mind and is indelibly etched upon one’s soul. Destiny and the universe always find ways to communicate where the pathway lies that will connect such a soul with its destiny. One can divert from the path, and create whatever obstacles one might wish, but the mission carries us inexorably forward. As is said, one does not choose such destiny. It chooses you.

Filled with exhilarating musical performances and set against a backdrop of
sweeping historical change, The Overture reminds me of a saying that usually applies to sports: “Never underestimate the heart of a champion.”In this case, I would add the words “passionate artist” to that sentence. In a time when it was literally life-threatening to be different and to even express his music, Sorn refused to bow to the societal pressures all around him. He heard only the whisperings of the music muse in his heart who compelled him to defy even his beloved father in search of a new sound only he could hear.

Artists can, have, and always will have within themselves the opportunity, ability, and honor to deeply affect the society in which their artistic vision is expressed.

Stephen Simon produced such films as Somewhere in Time and What Dreams May Come and will next be directing and producing the film version of Neale Donald Walsch’s Conversations with God. He also wrote The Force is With You: Mystical Movie Messages That Inspire Our Lives and co-founded The Spiritual Cinema Circle at Stephen welcomes your comments by

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