When Leonard Cohen returned after a five-year hiatus with the 1984 album “Various Positions”, Columbia Records boss Walter Yetnikoff did not even want to release it. A foolish misjudgment when you consider that it contained one of Cohen’s most personal and influential songs in the form of “Hallelujah”. The LP’s small initial run was one of the reasons why the song is not always attributed to Cohen, but rather to Jeff Buckley, based on his sensitive cover.
The documentary begins as a biographical search for clues that uses a single song to outline the Canadian poet and singer’s lifelong search for transcendence. “Hallelujah” is the right choice for this, because Cohen used the song not only to explore his relationship to his Jewish roots, but also to allude to ephemeral longings. He also rewrote it several times, adding verses about past love affairs and sexual revelations. However, no song and no cultural expression can escape interpretation.
In the second part of the film, Geller and Goldfine explain how the song changed in strange ways as more and more performers covered it – John Cale and Rufus Wainwright (for SHREK) are just two of them. Once a hymn to the incompatibility of search and fulfillment, the song was religiously simplified, flattened, and became a wedding hit. (Dominik Kamalzadeh)
USA 2021 116 MIn., engl. OmU
Regie & Buch: Daniel Geller, Dayna Goldfine
Kamera: Dan Geller
Schnitt: Dayna Goldfine, Bill Weber, Dan Geller