HALLELUJAH: LEONARD COHEN, A JOURNEY, A SONG -- A Deep Exploration of One of the World's Finest Songs
Review by Sean Boelman
If one were making a list of the most beautiful songs ever sung, it would be a travesty not to include Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” Daniel Geller and Dayna Goldfine’s documentary Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, a Journey, a Song is a reminder of the power that music can have to unite people, although general audiences might have a hard time connecting with it.
The film explores the life and creative process of poet and musician Leonard Cohen through the lens of his most iconic creation, “Hallelujah.” For anyone who is a fan of music, much of Cohen’s backstory is likely to already be common knowledge, but this movie still provides an intimate look at the life of the iconic artist.
With a runtime of nearly two hours, the film is perhaps a bit longer than it needs to be. The movie does go into some biographical elements of Cohen’s life in addition to the dissection of the eponymous song, but it will struggle to sustain viewers’ interest, especially in the portions that are more generic.
Indeed, the film is at its best in the moments that are more introspective, exploring the religious journey that Cohen underwent throughout his life and the ways in which listeners related to the song during their own spiritual experiences. There’s something magical about Cohen’s song, and this movie does an excellent job of communicating that power.
When the film begins to take a much more technical angle, examining the long-lasting influence and impact that the song has made on the industry, it’s certainly more for people who have an intimate knowledge and interest in music than those who are casually familiar with Cohen’s work.
Centering a documentary so heavily around a single song can be risky, because it can easily start to feel like you are listening to a broken record. However, given the amount of times that the song has been covered by artists in different styles and genres of music, viewers still won’t be tired of hearing the song by the end of the movie.
The film is shockingly bland for a documentary put out by Sony Pictures Classics. That isn’t to say that it’s poorly-made, but the presentation is unexpectedly straightforward and uninspired. There are some nice archive materials here that mostly speak for themselves, but otherwise, it’s rather unspectacular.
Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, a Journey, a Song doesn’t manage to be a must-see documentary despite its focus on one of the best songs ever made. Musicophiles will certainly appreciate what this movie has to offer, but it’s unlikely to have much appeal beyond that core niche.
Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, a Journey, a Song is now playing in theaters.