Thursday, May 21, 2015

Mozart's Sister

This wonderful French film, (Nannerl, la soeur de Mozart) presents a family making ends meet by travelling from one wealthy 18th century European establishment to another...including the Palace of Versailles. The family are the Mozarts, of course, and the two children, Nannerl and Wolfgang, are both prodigies in an age when such beings were supposedly commonplace. The only problem is that Nannerl is a girl, and while her talents are almost on a par with Mozart the child, her father doesn't take them into account. She's useful as a (very good) accompanist to Wolfgang when he's playing solo violin, and she can sing as well, but her compositions are disregarded by her father, and she always plays a literal second fiddle to the prodigious youth. 

The film is strongly feminist in the most gentle way: thought by the end you want to bang some of the men's heads together (and a few of the women's). 

René Féret is the director, and his daughter Marie plays Nannerl, while another daughter plays the youngest of the three princesses sent by the King into virtual exile in a French Abbey. Marie Féret is excellent in a wonderfully subdued way, constantly moving forward an inch in a society where she's 'just' a woman and then being hauled back out of the way to make room for the men. She brings an extraordinary quiet warmth to the role, and provides some heartbreaking moments. 

The other outstanding performance is from David Moreau who plays Wolfgang. We're never quite sure what his age is because his father insists of promoting him as being younger than he actually is, but he's roughly ten or eleven. Moreau has to play violin in several scenes, and does it superbly. He has a wonderful naivety about him, like a child unaware, almost, of his genius. 

The music throughout is wonderful, some of it genuine to the period, some composed by Marie-Jeanne Serero. Nannerl's compositions were apparently destroyed (in the film she throws her violin concerto in the fire), and consequently we have no idea of her composing ability. The hints found in letters between her and other members of her family, however, imply that she was certainly very capable. 

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