Upon seeing the title for the Swedish short film by Jimmy Olsson, Notes, I suppose it was the writer in me immediately leaping to the conclusion that it would be a film about words. Instead, the title refers to musical notes, and it is these that become both a character and the backbone for this beautifully told story.
When a man moves into a new apartment, his only company is a keyboard. Having been warned about keeping noise levels down, you almost feel that his faltering hesitance over the keys will produce loud and obnoxious reprimands from his neighbour. It is quite the opposite because the response is a musical one. As the man’s fingertips struggle to find the right notes, his neighbour responds with rich and resonant guidance from their own piano and so begins a conversation between two characters with no words spoken.
It is a film with sparse dialogue and little action, yet it sucks you in as the characters connect and speak through music, evoking warmth, depth of feeling, and even a chuckle, bringing to mind a quote attributed to Hans Christian Andersen, “When words fail, music speaks.” Given the piano’s central place in the story, a gorgeous soundtrack is inevitable with pieces by Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, and one of my all-time favourite composers, Ludovico Einaudi.
The story is a simple one and the turning point in the man’s path, courtesy of a phone call, can be seen coming. The intrigue lies in who the neighbour could be. Curiosity keeps you watching, while the music keeps you in the moment growing fonder of a character you can’t even see. A written note eventually features too, but what it says – or whether it even contains words – is not revealed. What is revealed is the neighbour and the eventual meeting so poignant, it will leave you at a loss for words.