In the documentary “Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song,” Dayna Goldfine and Dan Geller pay homage to the man born with the gift of a golden voice by examining the history and impact of Cohen’s influential, frequently recorded song. The late Canadian singer-songwriter, poet, and novelist comments, “You look around and see an universe that cannot be made sense of – you either raise your fist, or you exclaim, “Hallelujah.” Although Cohen emphasises that “people have been singing that word for thousands of years,” as several of his well-known followers point out in the documentary, Cohen changed the term’s meaning by viewing it through his own particular lens.
It would be an understatement to say that writing “Hallelujah” was a difficult task. It is the end result of a lengthy, arduous spiritual journey. Cohen claims that “Hallelujah” has redefined his stringent standards. “I always believed I sweated over this stuff,” Cohen adds. He wrote the well-known classic over a period of years, scribbling discarded lyrics in notebook after notebook. He remembers feeling so angry by it at one time that he ended up hitting his head on the hotel room floor.
The document notices Cohen being referred to as a “seeker,” paying particular focus to Cohen’s religious and spiritual identity. He was primarily interested in unravelling the secrets of life, according to what is said. The development of “Hallelujah” makes it obvious that if that weren’t the case, the song wouldn’t exist.
Cohen and his bandmates were confident they had a remarkable song when they finally completed writing it and recording it. Record company for Cohen differed. Unconvinced of its economic feasibility, Columbia Records rejected the album “Various Positions,” of which it was a part. They decided not to distribute the record in the United States even though they had already paid for it.
It didn’t gain popularity until John Cale released a cover version of “Hallelujah.” The versions of the song by Jeff Buckley and Rufus Wainwright, the latter of which was featured on the “Shrek” soundtrack, are largely responsible for its current status as an instantly recognisable mega hit and a mainstay of talent shows like “American Idol” and “The X Factor.”
In addition to tracing the song’s unusual rise to fame, the documentary also pays tribute to the performers who first made “Hallelujah” popular and those who are still moved by it. Along with Grammy winner Brandi Carlile, who speaks movingly about her relationship to the song in relation to her sexuality and faith, Buckley and Wainwright are also on that list.
“Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song” explores how and why “Hallelujah” strikes a chord with so many listeners and isn’t only about the guy or the history of his greatest work. Cohen passed away in 2016, but “a very shattered hallelujah” carries on without him.