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Testimony - Tony Palmer's Story of Shostakovich / Ben Kingsley (1988)

Ben Kingsley , Sherry Baines , Tony Palmer  |  NR |  DVD
3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Ben Kingsley, Sherry Baines, Magdalen Asquith, Mark Asquith, Terence Rigby
  • Directors: Tony Palmer
  • Writers: Tony Palmer, David Rudkin, Solomon Volkov
  • Producers: Grahame Jennings, Maureen Murray, Michael Henry, Michael Kustow
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Kultur Video
  • DVD Release Date: July 25, 2006
  • Run Time: 157 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000G1ALES
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #234,455 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Testimony - Tony Palmer's Story of Shostakovich / Ben Kingsley" on IMDb

Special Features


Editorial Reviews

Testimony is one of those comparatively rare events nowadays - a real piece of cinema that has a knack of juxtaposing image and music, presenting Shostakovich's legacy in vividly alive musical symphonies.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars something truly special September 16, 2006
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
A film unlike any other, even among Palmer's impressive body of work, Testimony is an unrelieved, excruciating, gallantly bitter ride, riveting in conception and execution from beginning to end. It's a film of epic sorrow and pain, a film of and about truth, subversion, and art. It's filled gloriously with Shotakovich's defiantly eternal music, and Ben Kingsley's performance as Shostakovich is shocking and profound, his masterfully trained actor's voice used like a needle point intelligence through every frame, tracing his character's fate with a mocking sing-song sarcasm that tells volumes. I believe Kingsley's beautifully cadenced performance reveals the film's intent as effectively as do Shostakovich's scores. Hyper-alert to every cinematic possibility, Palmer proves himself again and again every bit as much editor as fantasist. He maintains a close to the bone intent throughout, and his fastidiousness as a filmmaker is stupefying. Palmer uses cinematic artifice brilliantly, devotedly - the way Mozart used humor, and Bach faith. Every scene stings, nothing is wasted, every gesture feeds the overwhelming whole. The film's ending recruits the 13th Symphony ("Babi Yar") as tragic chorus, delivering a harrowing climax - the Easter Island-like statue head of Stalin tumbling with fire and chasing Shostakovich becomes a fantastic spectacle of delirious terror ultimately impossible to forget, grotesque and exotic. Palmer clearly refuses the bandwagon of tired old fools carping ignorantly decade after decade about Volkov's exacting and undeniable book, finding in it the truth about tyranny - Shostakovich's truth. The film is a masterpiece - a word one is careful using about Tony Palmer's work simply because he has committed more than one! - but let that praise be heard here. Read more ›
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Shostakovich via cinema verite merged with music video August 20, 2007
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Anyone expecting a literal retelling of tales from Solomon Volkov's book "Testimony" is going to be disappointed and bewildered by Tony Palmer's cinematic account, for this is more a 150-minute metaphor and music video than narrative of the life and times of DSCH.

Make no mistake, this is a stunning piece of cinema verite, an art form described in one place as, "A form of entertainment that enacts a story by sound and a sequence of images giving the illusion of continuous movement." The scenes in this film comprise all the important moments of Shostakovich's life -- his student years in academy with Glazunov, the success of his student Symphony No. 1, his fear after Stalin's denigration of Lady McBeth of Minsk, his friendships with Tukaschevsky and Meyerhold, the make-good symphony No. 5, "an artist's reply to just criticism", a funny scene about the wartime "Leningrad" symphony and his famous firehat episode that got him on the cover of Time, his 1948 denunciation by Zhdanov at the musical congress, his home life with Nina, Galya and Maxim and the adults ongoing paranoia that a nighttime knock on the door would take him away at any moment.

Yes, the sequences are all there. But to say they are comprehenisve or fleshed out, as they are in the book, would be a mistake. Like Ben Kingsley's portrayal of the composer, these scenes are riveting but superfluous; they tend to last only a few minutes and are often accompanied or followed by bleeding chunks of Shostakovich's music, which is really the star of the program. At other times, newsreel footage of the era is interspersed to accompany the music, much as it did in the oustanding 2005 DVD "Shostakovich Against Stalin: The War Symphonies" (ASIN: B000BLBZM0) with grainy black and white photography adding artistry and affect.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great Film of a Great Composer, but.... October 28, 2006
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
... the video transfer appears to be absolutely awful. It looks like it might have been transferred from video table instead of from the original negative or even a good print. In order to squeeze a movie that is more than two hours long onto a single-sided DVD they must have used lower quality compression. Rather expensive for a DVD of such low quality.

If you haven't seen the movie before and you love Shostakovich, buy a used copy, save your money, and enjoy. You won't be disappointed.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
This film is much more than another "composer biography". It is a riveting portrait of an artist working in a straight-jacket, a dictator who insisted on being called "our teacher" and the "great gardener" - because he was cultivating a new state and people. In short, in honor of Shostakovich's 100th birthday and his extrarodinary contribution to music; this film deserves to be seen.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Great film but a terrible dvd September 28, 2006
The image quality of this dvd is so bad that even the VHS copy I taped years ago from Dutch television is much better. Absolutely no image restoration! But a great film though. I hope there will be a better version in the future to do this film justice.

Rob Kwak.
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
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In addition to faithfully capturing Shostakovich's inner life as revealed in the composer's memoirs, this film is a wonderful cinematic work of art in its own right. Unlike most filmed biographies which take pains to introduce every character and explain every event, this film assumes that viewers are already familiar with Shostakovich's life and the events and people that surrounded him. This is just one of the many elements that helps to lift this film above the level of the typical, dumbed-down biopic.

I taped this film when it was shown on TV years ago and have been waiting for a DVD release for the longest time. I don't have this DVD, so I can't comment on the transfer, but I will say that a copy of this film belongs in the library of everyone concerned with Shostakovich. I guarantee that if you love Shostakovich, you will love this film.

This DVD will, no doubt, come under attack by the same forces that have attacked the composers memoirs. Apologists for the Soviet state were upset that Shostakovich's memoirs showed that he was not a faithful party member whose work blossomed under communist rule. Shostakovich's memoirs showed, on the contrary, that he hated the brutal regime and that his work was a testimony to the tens of millions slaughtered by the workers paradise. Practically every family member and friend of Shostakovich has gone on record as stating that the printed memoirs do indeed reflect the thoughts and feelings of the composer.
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