7/10
Meditative documentary about an eccentric journey
27 June 2018
This documentary follows an English veteran piano tuner called Desmond Gentle, who embarks on a mission to deliver a 100-year old piano to a small village high up in the Himalayas, transported using only people and yaks. In doing so, this will make this piano the highest in the world.

This is the kind of story that celebrated German film-maker Werner Herzog could easily have documented, after all, he pulled a steamboat over a hill in the middle of the Amazon rainforest. The only difference is that Piano to Zanskar doesn't have a demented maniac like Klaus Kinski raving about like a madman on the periphery making a difficult objective borderline impossible. The people in this wilderness trek are all low-key, humble individuals so there are no heavy melodramas to be found here. The journey is not without drama, however, as the footage of the somewhat quite obviously dangerous descent down a mountainside with large piano makes abundantly clear. But, ultimately, this documentary becomes less about the trek itself than the overall objective. The people of Lingshed are fascinating in themselves. They are mostly cut-off from the rest of the world, so their way of life is much more different to our own. They value, far more, the simple pleasures in life in which we sometimes forget. So, when this 100-year old piano is reconstructed and played for the first time in this place in the middle of the mountains, its has a beautiful impact. There are other unusual moments to savour too, such as when Gentle's young female assistant leads a bunch of children through a dance routine where they all singalong to 'Movin' on Up' by Primal Scream. It is a beautiful, strange moment and, needless to say, I don't think it is one Bobby Gillespie and the boys could have envisioned their ecstasy-fuelled anthem ever being used for.

This is a highly meditative documentary, which also boasts some beautiful photography of a dramatic natural environment. It is low-key and somewhat spiritual in effect and is well worth checking out.
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