Don’t be fooled by silly synopses about Eva Mulvad’s A Modern Man. Many insinuate a tale of a hoity-toity, body and fashion-conscious, rich hunk. In fact, the subject in front of Mulvad’s lens is much more relatable, albeit falsely aloof. Yes, he has money. Yes, he likes fancy cars and luxury items, but this simply comes with the territory for a successful classical violinist from a well-off family. Overall, this is an essay about using the spotlight to achieve one’s goals without compromising one’s ideals. As with most active musicians, Charlie Siem jetsets between countries, appears for wardrobe fittings, and spends hours practicing his instrument. This lifestyle could include friendship and romance, but Siem is too fixated on his dreams to let such petty things taint his world.
There is a fine line between being stuck up and simply sticking to one’s objectives to a fault. The life the violinist lives brings him the joy of success, achievement, and recognition. However, the two-sided coin is that recognition only symbolizes ‘making it’ if it is the craft – the music – that is recognized. What does modeling for Hugo Boss do for a classical musician? It brings him adoring female fans that are only attracted to the photographer’s interpretation of who Siem is. Even Siem cannot recognize himself in these artistic portraits. Contrary to public opinion, he is not the most attractive hunk on the face of the planet. He is an average-looking man with boyish features and ill-sitting hair. He is neither poised when he stalks around in his tailored summer wear, nor when he’s bumming around in his sweats, nor when he is hunched over his violin in a way that bunches up his customized suits. He lives behind pretense, to a degree. If we look beyond the surface, Siem is bored when not holding his violin. He is attached to hashtags in a way that’s more amusing than career-building. Whereas most Instagram body-obsessed influencers self-administer a liquid-and-powder diet to be able to show off their abs, Siem buys vitamins in bulk because his doctor tells him he has “a few deficiencies”.
In one of the most telling scenes, Siem’s musician-sister seems so much more in touch with herself, with him, with music and with the life that breathes around them. Siem’s demeanor is therefore, not a family trait. She speaks to him about the heart and the soul, and he stares off into space with a look of discontent and disconnection. He is so rigid in what he must do, he is even unwilling to take musical advice from someone he appears to at least get along with fairly well. He fears his sister’s free-spirited tips will make him appear silly on a stage.
The film itself is rather simple. Included are live footage of Siem’s performances, banter with his colleagues, and even a bizarre sequence shot in black and white showing the fanfare and ridiculousness of the rich and famous (to which Siem seems rather out of place). Cinematographically speaking, there are some gorgeous and dizzying boom shots over the Danish mountainside (thanks to both Mulvad and co-cinematographer Sebastien Baeumler). Anyone who enjoys the sound of the violin will get goosebumps from Siem’s playing. But for those who don’t take kindly to string instruments, be prepared for the chilling high notes.
November 15th, 2017, 8:15 pm
Cinema du Parc
November 18th, 3:15 pm
Cinema du Parc
Director or crew member in attendance