Music is about the harmony of a set of discordant notes. Especially orchestra. In some way, Elan Kolirin’s The Band’s Visit is about the harmony between a set of discordant people. Not peoples, just people.
Right at the outset, a title card declares that the events depicted aren’t actually remembered, because they weren’t important. Of course, we refuse to believe. That’s just standard heartstring-pull-porn for ‘it was terribly important, just not quantifiable’.
This is where The Band’s Visit delivers: they aren’t important, just tender and human and sweet. This is not a standard enemies-change-their-lives movie; it’s just an outsiders-who-happen-to-be-from-the-enemy-country-mildly-alters-them-to-the-exact-extent-that-average-outsiders-would movie.
The story is an Egyptian police band ends up in the wrong village in Israel and can’t leave till the next morning. The plot is about four people in the band and the Israelis who put them up/put up with them.
No one is a particularly ‘new’ person in the morning. The only change is the dose of freshness and perspective that the addition of outsider-interaction inevitably brings. One figures out something wrong with himself, a realisation that has been too long in the pipeline. Another finishes a piece he wrote half of thanks to a baby and his father. Yet another finally gets a phone call (this storyline seems to be a parable about hope and symbiosis in conflict). A fourth de-gloomifies his not-girlfriend.
Never in all this outsider-interaction do we hear mention of the tension between their countries; that is for us viewers to add.
There is, however, another staple of outsider-interaction: awkwardness. This is an uproariously funny movie. Yet we are never laughing at the people, we are always laughing at the situation. We never during the course of the movie lose respect for any character.
Music, especially orchestra, is about the harmony of a set of discordant notes. In some way, The Band’s Visit is about the harmony between a set of discordant people. Not peoples, just people. Not characters, just people.