SYNOPSIS

Based on the book by Hilary and Piers du Pre (originally entitled A Genius in the Family, afterwards re-titled Hilary and Jackie), the film Hilary and Jackie follows the lives of the two du Pre sisters from their childhood in 1950s England, to sister Jackie's rise to stardom as one of the world's pre-eminent concert cellists. The two girls, both musicians (sister Hilary plays the flute), are originally very close, but Jackie's increasing success and celebrity tear them apart.

The trajectories of their lives diverge even more as Hilary settles down, marrying her first love Kiffer Finzi (played by David Morrissey), while Jackie becomes ever more isolated in the role of "musical genius", eventually marrying the gifted pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim (James Frain). Jackie's increasing isolation and unhappiness with the life she has chosen (or, from her perspective, the life she had thrust upon her) is brought to a head during a fateful visit to Hilary and Kiffer's country home. When Hilary and Piers du Pre first published the book detailing their family's lives, it caused quite an uproar among the classical music community, within which Jacqueline du Pre had been almost deified. Some suggested that Hilary's picture of Jackie was the result of envy and jealousy at her sister's musical success.

The film re-ignited the controversy. Leaving such concerns aside, the film based on the book is superb, with a gripping plot and fine acting all 'round. (Rachel Griffiths is convincing as Hilary and Emily Watson received an Academy Award nomination for her portrayal of Jackie.) The film's narrative structure, reminiscent of Kurosawa's Rashomon, provides us with a description of events, first from Hilary's perspective, then from Jackie's. As in Rashomon, the two descriptions diverge at several key points, leaving us with the question: Is there a perspective-independent fact about what happened?


 

The touching and incredible true story of Jacqueline and Hilary du Pre, the gifted musical sisters who grew up in England in the 1950's. Written and produced as a tribute to Jackie, the story traces her rapid rise to international fame and the devastating consequences it had on her and those she loved. Jacqueline du Pre was arguably the greatest prodigy of the 20th Century. She dazzled audiences around the world with the unbridled passion and beauty of her music. While her sister Hilary married and began a family at home, Jackie and her husband, the pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim, traveled and performed around the world. Although the couple was treated as musical royalty, the constant touring became a tremendous strain on Jackie who longed for the simpler life that her sister built. Arriving at Hilary's home for an unannounced visit, Jackie, lonely and desperate, leaned on her sister expecting and demanding the unthinkable.

A Genius in the Family, the book written by my brother Piers and myself, is the story of our family and our life with Jackie. It is simply our view from within.

About three years ago Oxford Films approached us, wanting to make a film based on the book. They asked many probing and detailed questions and became deeply involved in the lives of our family. Contrary to popular advice we trusted that their interpretation would not distort the honest picture we had tried to present.

One evening, the director, Anand Tucker, visited us to describe the film. He began with the first scene and quickly became engrossed. Clearly, he had envisaged the entire film in minute detail. My husband Kiffer, Piers and I were extremely moved by his total and passionate involvement. Two and a quarter years later Piers and I sat in a darkened theatre consumed with a heady mixture of excitement and anxiety. I had given my book ­ much of my life ­ in trust to Oxford Films. They have honoured that trust and captured the essence and spirit of the story. Piers and I were overwhelmed and unable to move for half an hour afterwards.

The script by Frank Cottrell Boyce has been written with tenderness, imagination and extraordinary perception. The actors were completely absorbed in their characters, and they all ring true. They are, without exception, a stunning cast.

Barrington Pheloung's score is masterly. It is a marvellous weaving of his original composition around the Elgar, other cello works and our Holiday Song. Barrington contacted me to ask if, as children, we had any favourite music. I told him about our song, sung only on holiday, with varying harmonies and embellishments. It is the main theme, and he makes haunting use of its simplicity. His music slips skillfully amongst the intense emotions portrayed in the film. Whether it is humour, anger, pain, joy, despair or hope, the music always enhances the emotional and visual impact. Apart from the Elgar, the cello voice on the soundtrack is of Caroline Dale. She has achieved an extraordinary degree of "cello acting" in catching the spirit and sound of Jackie.

The Cello Concerto was Elgar's last major work. Initially it was regarded as poorly crafted and was little known until Jackie played it. Certainly no cellist before Jackie had managed to probe its depths. It had remained misunderstood, unloved and infrequently performed. It is profoundly English, deeply nostalgic and painfully retrospective ­ ideal territories for Jackie.

When Jackie played there was complete fusion between herself, her cello and the music. There were no barriers, no seams. She was the music; as Jackie often said, it "belonged" to her, and she transported her listeners to hitherto unexplored and unexpected realms. Her sound and her capacities were unique. Her playing still tears me to shreds.

In her performances of the Elgar Jackie infused the Concerto with her instinctive understanding, colour and passion. She created a wonderful mixture of youth and age that cut immediately into everyone's hearts. She made the Elgar not only a central piece in the cello repertoire, but universally loved. It needed her, she loved it, and together they made each other.
Hilary du Pré October 1998


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