The Song of Names film opens today

The Song of Names film opens today


norman lebrecht

December 25, 2019

The initial release of The Song of Names rolls out today from Sony in selected movie houses in New York and Los Angeles. Canada release also starts today in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.

My original novel was published in 2001. Film rights were sold within weeks.

It has taken 18 years for the story to reach the screen.

The initial cast was meant to be Anthony Hopkins and Dustin Hoffman. I met Hopkins in Cardiff and was due to have coffee in London with Hoffman. Hopkins was touchingly keen. He had read not only The Song of Names but also one of my books on Mahler. We were chatting happily after a concert when I caught the eye of his wife, who was sitting in the corner of his dressing room, and knew in that instant that he would never be in this film. Her look said: too niche, too foreign, too small budget, too artsy, too everything.

For which I am eternally grateful.

The ultimate cast of Tim Roth and Clive Owen is inspired. I have never seen either man give a more empathetic performance.

And the boy actors are out of this world.

Francois Girard is a magnificent director. He would send me emails in the small hours of the morning, unable to sleep untol I had clarified some tiny plot detail to his satisfaction.

The LA Times review calls the film ‘a profound, affecting and beautifully told chronicle of faith, family, obsession and the language of music.’

The New York Times calls it ‘powerful’.

Let me know what you think.



  • Joe says:

    Excellent, Norman. I look forward to seeing it.

  • Simon Scott says:

    I can’t wait to see it!

  • Straussian says:

    Congratulations. When is the general release? Looking forward to seeing it in Toronto. Happy to know there’s a Canadian connection in Francois Girard, who’s directing his Parsifal for the COC this coming year.

  • When in Europe? Or maybe Netflix?
    I want to see it!

  • Petros Linardos says:

    Best of luck!

  • TP Hogan says:

    Congrats, Norman. Surprised you didn’t mention the music, composed by Canadian Howard Shore

  • Karen says:

    Why no mention of the incredibly talented virtuoso Ray Chen who provided all the beautifully played violin music for this film?

  • Olassus says:

    Hope it does well!

  • Martinu says:

    Read the book years ago, wept and loved it.
    Is there a chance of Israel release?

  • Simon Hall says:

    I loved the book and hope the movie does it justice. Can’t wait to see it. I hope it’s a smash hit for you Norman.

  • Robert Holmén says:

    Best wishes for a successful run, they must have award hopes for it with this end-of-year release!

  • Terri says:

    Very much looking forward to seeing the movie, Norm. I was in tears watching the trailer, and I have a feeling I will be thinking about the movie days after seeing it. Best of luck.

  • Chris R says:

    From the LA Times.
    “ It’s a profound, affecting and beautifully told chronicle of faith, family, obsession and the language of music.“

    Congratulations. The book was terrific and excited to see the movie.

  • Larry L. Lash / Vienna says:

    Toi toi toi!

  • Rob says:

    Too bad about Hopkins, he has a real flair for fleshing out a character.

  • Sharon says:

    Norman, why such a limited release? Right now in New York it is showing in only one obscure movie theater on the fringes of Manhattan, on 57th Street and 12th Avenue, which New Yorkers call the Far West Side, at least a mile from the nearest subway station, which is a long walk for New Yorkers, although it is on a bus line. This movie theater, the Landmark, is not even considered one of the major art house cinemas!

    I do not know if Netflix still makes DVDs in addition to downloads. (Yes, I know that I am really out of the loop!) It would be nice if it did come out in DVD so synagogues, Jewish community centers, and other groups could show it for Yom Hashoah.

    • phf655 says:

      It’s also showing at the Angelica, located at Houston and Mercer Streets. Easy to get to by B,D,F,M, R, W, and 6 subway lines. I saw it there on Christmas Day. Very beautiful and moving. Yes, I don’t know why an art cinema was situated at such an incredibly inconvenient location (the Landmark).

  • Nellie says:

    An outstanding movie that does justice to the novel! Congratulations, Norman. I saw the film at the recent Jewish International Film Festival in Sydney, Australia. It was voted by the audience as equal first Best Feature Film
    (My Name is Sara,
    The Song of Names,
    Jojo Rabbit – for those who are interested).

  • Jimbo says:

    Norman what a terrific cast (love Owen and Roth) Director and composer there!. I very much like the look of that trailer! Can’t wait! Congratulations!

  • says:

    I saw it at the Vancouver film fest and loved it. A beautiful and sensitive film, it opened here today and I’m recommending it. Good timing too — thank you…

  • The film was shown on closing night (November 17) as a special preview at the Rutgers Jewish Film Festival (sponsored by Rutgers University in New Jersey). It was quickly voted the best drama of the festival. It is a gem that I very much want to see again. I agree that the acting was excellent; Clive Owen has appeared on one of the talk shows here in the U.S. promoting it, so Sony Classics is certainly behind it. The music was also excellent; Howard Shore was an excellent choice as composer.

  • Symphony musician says:

    I wish you every success, Norman, but not so much so that you lose interest in running this invaluable blog!

  • Ms.Melody says:

    A beautiful, moving film

  • j magers says:

    so beautiful.