‘The Symphony of Leif’ is a character-driven coming-of-age story about a 14 year-old boy who is sent to a modern religious boarding school and becomes trapped in a bizarre high school thousands of miles from home.
Synopsis:ACT 1: As a last resort after failing his 8th grade final exams, Leif Csuba is sent to a religious boarding school and is forcefully inducted into the church’s philosophy and doctrine.
Leif Csuba is a lousy student. The only thing he’s skilled at is music but that’s not good enough for his father, Istvan. After failing 8th grade Istvan sends him to Lamia, a very religious boarding school 3,000 miles from his home and his only friend, Odi.
At first glance, the school appears to be a dream come true, but soon Leif begins to perceive darker and more sinister intentions. Lamia doesn’t want to just educate young minds. It wants to control them.
Leif has a hard time adjusting. His unhygienic roommate Rob’s mission in life is to make Leif miserable. The cafeteria food is rotten and inedible. Leif and all the other students at Lamia are forced to endure hard, daily manual labor under the guise of building character. Any complaint, be it to a teacher or fellow student, results in a trip to the dreaded Ethics Office, where children emerge very different from when they went in.
Leif’s only escape are occasional visits to the Peterson’s house; old family acquaintances who don’t understand the introspective teenager.
This school’s educational philosophy is like nothing Leif has ever experienced. He lives under the threat of Misunderstood Words and Method Three protocol, where he must define every word in the book he’s reading before he can continue with a lesson. The more he tries to understand their learning system, the more confused he becomes.
Before long Leif is sent to the feared Ethics Office. The Ethics Lady warns him that he will follow their instructions without question or face terrible consequences. Leif rebels with covert guerrilla warfare tactics while outwardly seeming to embrace the school’s plan for him.
ACT 2: Over several months Leif adapts to his environment and even discovers some like-minded friends but things take a turn for the worse when he’s punished for an offence he didn’t commit.
Leif finds a lone piano at the school and it becomes his sanctuary. He also encounters a group of misfits like himself. They include Nick, obsessed with the film ‘A Clockwork Orange’, Derk, the resident asshole of Lamia, and Jude, an army brat who constantly tries to give the impression he’s an adult.
Then one day, Leif falls desperately in love. Leif sees Katrina and can’t stop thinking of her. Using his piano skills he composes songs to impress her but doesn’t get the reaction he hopes for.
In retaliation for censorship and oppression (all outside information sources are banned at Lamia) Derk “confiscates” a forbidden newspaper from a teacher’s desk. As a joke, Leif and his posse leak news about the outside world. The Ethics office launches a search to recover the newspaper and punish the thief. The four friends take a vow never to rat on each other and they begin to believe they are all in the clear.
To get out of schoolwork, Leif exaggerates the severity of a slight head cold. Leif is sequestered in the infirmary’s isolation ward. But the infirmary is a ruse. It’s really a gingerbread prison for unruly kids. After days of privation and isolation the Ethics Lady confronts Leif and forces a confession for the theft of the newspaper.
ACT 3: One by one Leif loses all his friends, fails courses, discovers Katrina doesn’t like him and finally learns of his best friend’s accidental death back home. With seemingly no hope, Leif manages to pull himself out of despair and escapes the school.
After seeing the true side of Lamia and with no reprieve in sight, everything Leif gained slowly begins to disappear. He pushes his friends away, his piano is destroyed, and his father tells him he is the biggest disappointment of his life. In a last bid for Katrina’s favor he purchases a gold necklace, but he botches the delivery and Katrina sends a group of jocks to beat Leif up.
Leif begins to use the Lamia system, a system he’s been fighting, to punish those he believes have wronged him. Leif breaks his vow to his friends and implicates Jude in the newspaper theft. His anger builds to the point where he constructs a crude bomb in order to wreak havoc within the school. After learning that his Hawaiian friend, Odi, was killed in an accident back home Leif seriously considers using it on himself.
Despite having nothing to live for, Leif finds strength in the memory of Odi. In one of the darkest moments of Leif’s childhood, Odi shows him how to rise above it. With a small keepsake his friend gave to him, Leif extricates himself from the school and leaves behind his childhood.
Leif escapes Lamia and goes to Hungary, the birthplace of his father, to immerse himself in the study of music and composing. He works, he studies and along the way he discovers that he has become a man.