March 2019 Science Magazine (blog) different angle from February item same title
Director Irene Taylor Brodsky’s award-winning 2007 documentary Hear and Now told the story of her deaf parents’ decision to get cochlear implants late in life. Her new film, Moonlight Sonata, contrasts her father’s lifelong experience of deafness with that of her son Jonas.
Moonlight Sonata: Deafness in Three Movements Irene Taylor Brodsky, director Vermilion Films 2019
Deaf since birth, Brodsky’s father, Paul Taylor, was taught to speak by mimicking sounds he sensed by touching a speaker’s throat. As a young man, a key victory was securing a driver’s license—a source of independence that had not been permitted for deaf people only shortly before and with which Taylor’s family is forced to reckon in the film. He went on to invent the TTY machine, a device that allows deaf people to communicate in real time with people at a distance. When Paul got his cochlear implants in his 60s, the technology didn’t fully restore his hearing because his neural connections were habituated to silence.
Brodsky’s son Jonas, who lost his hearing as a baby, has had a dramatically different experience. Jonas had cochlear implant surgery as a young child, and it was so successful that it can be hard to remember that he is deaf. As anyone who has ever had to get tech support from a teenager will relate to, the technology that is nearly magical to his grandparents is no big deal to Jonas. A scene in which they are trying to give him advice on how to live as a deaf person while he plays with his phone and nods his head—an act intended to communicate that he is listening that instead makes them feel as though he is ignoring them—highlights this generational difference.
As Jonas struggles to learn Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata—a piece written while the composer himself was losing his hearing—his grandfather also faces a new challenge. The movie paints a beautiful and moving picture of a family taking what comes in life, together, with love and grace.