Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song | Review | Tribeca Film Festival 2022


For many, Hallelujah is the greatest song ever written. For those who do not share that sentiment, Dan Geller and Dayna Goldfine will have you questioning why you ever believed otherwise. Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song is one of the longer documentaries at this year's Tribeca, but also one of the most heartfelt. From personal etchings of lyrics in notebooks to archival footage and extensive interviews with the likes of Clive Davis, Nancy Bacal, Dominique Isserman, Sharon Robinson, Eric Church and more, there are few corners of the Leonard Cohen history book left unturned.  

Broken into chapters with aptly named titles such as The Holy and the Broken and The Secret Chord, the film dives deep into Cohen's personal history before walking through the rise of Hallelujah. Visiting every hit version from Bob Dylan to John Cale to Jeff Buckley, right through to Alexandra Burke and beyond, Eric Church captures it best when he says: "it always feels like when you hear the song, something big has happened". There is a haunting majesty to the song, similarly captured in the feeling of the documentary. Although it's possible to have started thirty minutes in and maintained the same impact, something is sweeping about Geller and Goldfine's direction that makes it so easy to wrap yourself inside. Their use of voiceover from Cohen gives the feeling that he is still living, and although we don't see him, his presence surges throughout the film. It has that poetic beauty that most media made about Cohen often adopts. It seems people are committed to making something as infinitely romantic as the music he gifted this world, wanting to honour the legacy he left behind. 

"You either raise your first, or you say hallelujah, I try to do both," are the parting words of the film. Having spent 118 minutes wrapped inside the ever-changing lyrics of Hallelujah, you'll want to crawl back into it and uncover its mystery. That's the beautiful thing about this documentary. There is no grand scheme to uncover its secrets. It is more so an exploration of its effect and how it captivated multiple artists. It wants to explore what it means to be human. What it means to look to the sky and whisper "Hallelujah". 

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