Most people have heard the song “Hallelujah,” especially given its worldwide popularity and haunting quality. But I hadn’t known the song’s origins and much about the creator, Leonard Cohen. So when I heard about this documentary, I was excited to watch it and learn more about Leonard Cohen. I found the documentary a profound and moving tribute to a unique and creative person, and the presentation of the music inspirational.
Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song is a biographical documentary film created by Dan Gellar and Dayna Goldfine describing the story of Leonard Cohen, focusing on his song “Hallelujah,” which is beloved by fans. While it focuses on Hallelujah, the film traces Leonard’s Cohen journey from poet to the singer, exploring his creative process, spiritual search, and musical career. It also shows how the song went from almost obscurity to a life of its own.
Part of what makes it so interesting is the history of Leonard Cohen and how much he has created in his lifetime. But a documentary only is made interesting by the participants and the focus. Leonard Cohen is a singularly fascinating individual who followed his own path in life. He is uniquely original, and because of this, you have this very unusual documentary. Much of the film focuses on Leonard’s life and his creative and spiritual search as he attempts to delve into the purpose of life and its challenges. The many interviews with Cohen and those who knew him (ex-partners, reporters, and others who worked with him over the years) helped build this film. All of this blend to build a picture of this unique man.
Focusing on his singular piece of work, “Hallelujah” demonstrates how much the song resonates with his search for spirituality. The song blends both the sacred and secular into one piece of music, creating a haunting quality to the song, even more so when Leonard sings the piece. Leonard’s Jewish faith seems to be rooted not only in “Hallelujah” but can also be seen in his work. He was fascinated by words and how speech can be charged with purpose. The concepts bring a somber beauty to his music and attune it to human suffering. I love how the film paints a picture of Leonard and how his music impacted others. The performance snippets, interviews, and thoughts give a timeline of how and when “Hallelujah” was created. I also like how many different people were interviewed and spoken to, including reporters and other musicians.
The song “Hallelujah” blends the best of Leonard Cohen’s work and makes clear how well it juxtaposes joy, pain, and searching for understanding. The documentary demonstrates his passion and emotion. To me, that is what makes this song so powerful. The film also traces how much it impacted other artists as they created their versions, sometimes being more popular than Leonard’s but never losing the heart of the song, the search for understanding. The most well-known of these is Jeff Buckley, who brought the most attention to Cohen’s song but also honored the origins. The film does a wonderful job of showing “Hallelujah” ’s power and Leonard’s words, how much the song inspires and connects with many people.
If you love the song, I think you will want to watch this documentary to find out, as I did, about the song’s origins, how it was created, and more about the creator Leonard Cohen. His impact goes far beyond one piece of music, with songs that resonate and impact lives, especially “Hallelujah.” Whichever version you’ve heard, whatever variation on the words, if this music connects to you, I feel you will click with the man behind the music and his lifelong journey to find spirituality, peace, and meaning. With music this impactful, it is impossible not to want to listen to more of his creations and hear all about his unique and passionate life.
Rating: 5 out of 5 variations
Official Website: HALLELUJAH: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song | Sony Pictures Classics
HALLELUJAH: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song
“HALLELUJAH: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song” is a definitive exploration of singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen as seen through the prism of his internationally renowned hymn, Hallelujah. This feature-length documentary weaves together three creative strands: The songwriter and his times. The song’s dramatic journey from record label reject to chart-topping hit. And moving testimonies from major recording artists for whom Hallelujah has become a personal touchstone. Approved for production by Leonard Cohen just before his 80th birthday in 2015, the film accesses a wealth of never-before-seen archival materials from the Cohen Trust including Cohen’s personal notebooks, journals and photographs, performance footage and extremely rare audio recordings and interviews.
“HALLELUJAH: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song” is out in select theaters, and opens in Canada and Phoenix theaters on Friday, July 15, 2022.
ONE-LINER: This feature-length documentary explores the life of singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen as seen through the prism of his internationally renowned hymn, Hallelujah.