The life of a music major, with the seemingly never ending schedule of practices, competitions, recitals, and perfectionism, is a very trying one. The constant pressure from families, teachers, and students themselves to be the best can be enough to break even the strongest, most talented artist. Ivory demonstrates this pressure, and shows how two very different competing students handle their budding careers as concert pianists.
Andreas Goodman (Tim Draxl) is a twenty three year old pianist working tirelessly on his master’s degree. He feels he is still living in the shadows of his famous pianist grandfather and in an attempt to regain control of his career, he leaves his longtime piano instructor, and decides that he will be competing at the Liszt competition in Budapest. He also seeks out the teaching of a new instructor, Olga Primkova, who was the youngest female to ever win the prestigious Liszt competition.
At the Oberlin Conservatory, Andreas encounters rivalry in another student named Jake (Travis Fimmel). Jake is flamboyant, confident, and one of the best pianists in the program; however, he is also crude, insensitive, and relies on recreational drugs to enhance his performance. In addition to all of this, he also happens to be dating Alicia, a beautiful operatic soprano who is growing tired of Jake’s chauvinistic ways and finds peace in occasionally dating Andreas on the side.
Andreas is much more reserved than Jake, hoping that his morality will help him succeed. But when the two finally arrive in Budapest for the Liszt competition, they are back to being mere competitors onstage; the judges have no idea of the bitter rivalry that has plagued them.
The film is rich with color, with over-saturation that would make Baz Luhrmann proud. First time director Andrew Chan was smart to use the piano so cleverly with his camera angles, using the surface of it sometimes as a mirror. The soothing classical music that is played throughout should elevate the film, making it one that is suitable for all audiences whether musically inclined or not. Ivory shows how music takes over the lives of these pianists in a different way than it does everyone else; visually and musically it is a wonderful film.
However, Andreas’s constant voice over tells the story in ways that the screenplay should. Especially when awkward cuts are made, for example in the middle of an argument between Andreas and Alicia, and instead of fleshing out the argument onscreen, details of the result are heard in voiceover afterward from Andreas’s point of view. All of the characters are interesting in their own way and they deserve to be heard onscreen.
Tim Draxl is already a recording star in Australia and he could easily extend his fame into America if he continues on this path. As could Travis Fimmell, who is possibly the most compelling actor to watch in the film. One key scene features the two actors in a piano duel with intensity that rivals the piano duel between Daffy Duck and Donald Duck in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Martin Landau has a small role as Leon Spencer, the piano teacher that Andreas left, and he steals the film as soon as he appears onscreen.
Ivory is the first script written by Laurence Gingold, himself a graduate of the Oberlin Conservatory. With so many comparisons between the writer and the main character, one has to wonder how much of the story is autobiographical, or comes from his own experiences. On the surface, it seems that Ivory will most likely appeal only to music majors, but the story of conflicted college kids struggling to find their identities, launch their careers, and fall in love, will appeal to the masses.
Director: Andrew Chan
Notable Cast: Tim Draxl, Travis Fimmel, Martin Landau, Beau Garrett, Charlotte Salt
Writer(s): Laurence Gingold
Tags: Martin Landau