The Living Music festival is sponsored or run by our national broadcaster and about how music is alive. This year it was focussed on the music of John Adams (not present himself), though as with previous years it also covered other stuff. The big change this year was that Jazz has crashed the party and is part of the festival on equal footing with weirdo modernist classical music, something about which the jazzers are very excited. As always there was loads of stuff on but my time is limited so I only went to so much.
The first thing I went to was a showing of a film version of John Adams' opera about the hijacking of the Achille Lauro cruise ship in the mid-1980s. The Palestinian hijackers murder one Mr Klinghoffer, a wheelchair bound passenger; hence the title. One of my Frank's APA pals was not too taken with the opera when he saw it performed live. I agree with his assessment in so far as I was not really that taken with the music. However, as a film this worked quite well, being a tense narrative of the events leading up to and following Klinghoffer's death.
The film begins with some Palestinians being brutally expelled from a village in what is becoming Israel in 1948, with the son of an expellee becoming one of the militants who carries out the hijacking. After that it follows the course of the hijacking, climaxing in the murder of Klinghoffer in a scene that is genuinely upsetting. The aftermath of his murder is a bit anticlimactic, and is the most "oh get on with it" of the film, with the narrative being a bit slow as it plods to the films end. In case you are wondering, some kind of deal was cut that allowed the hijacking to end, possibly with the hijackers going into one of Egypt's comfortable jails for a while.
One of the things I do not really like about films and suchlike that touch on events in the Middle East is that I can never just enjoy them as narrative. Rather, I have to subject them to a degree of meta-analysis on what kind of line they take on the Palestinian-Israeli issue as whole. This opera provoked some controversy in certain quarters, with various pro-Israel groups condemning it in no uncertain terms. I think they felt it was over sympathetic to terrorists or some such. The film certainly does portray the hijackers as people with the kind of motivations that people have, and I understand that some supporters of Israel are uncomfortable with Palestinian militants being portrayed as anything other than slavering nut jobs. The film did appear to be broadly sympathetic to the Palestinian condition, feeling that they have legitimate grievances (like being expelled from their homes in 1948 and suchlike). However, the film plainly considered the taking of hostages, and more specifically the murdering of a wheel-chair bound man, to be morally repugnant. You could not watch this film and in any sense think "Go hijackers!", or think that the film wanted you to say "Go hijackers!".
I was a bit bemused by the present day sections they sometimes cut to, showing the hijackers now as beardy Hamas types bashing women who do not wear the hijab. Partly it seemed a bit irrelevant to the main narrative, but also it seemed a bit hard to believe that the hijackers would ever be able to live in the Occupied Territories without being exterminated. And the film created a false contrast between the (enforced) hijaby world of the 2000s and the veil-less Palestinian women of 1948 and 1985. I believe that hijab wearing would have been the norm for Palestinian women in all three time-periods, and the idea that Hamas started to enforce veil wearing on a population to which it was largely new is misrepresentation of actual events.
[Aside – since writing the previous paragraph for my homies in Frank's APA, I read in Spy School about how during Intifada 1 Hamas did in fact wage campaign to encourage/enforce hijab wearing, so maybe women in the early 1980s were as veil-free as the film suggests, though I somewhat doubt it]
But of course, this is all largely irrelevant to the opera's musical content, which as previously mentioned I found to be dull and uninvolving, in contrast to the exciting story.