Bow­ing out of sib­ling ri­valry

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Filmreviews -


Dublin, 120 min A GLANCE AT this melodic, le­gato fea­ture from René Féret con­firms quite what a long shadow Mi­los For­man’s Amadeus casts. You may find that Os­car-win­ning film slug­gish and over-praised but, when Mozart ap­pears on a cinema screen, you still half-ex­pect him to gig­gle like Tom Hulce.

Mozart’s Sis­ter is a more sober af­fair. Shot in tight, un­der­pop­u­lated frames and fea­tur­ing dis­ci­plined per­for­mances, the film is more of a sub­tle sonata than a grand opera. Féret of­fers us the Mozart fam­ily dur­ing their pe­riod of city-hop­ping fame. Less of a mon­ster than he is of­ten por­trayed, this ver­sion of Leopold Mozart (Marc Barbé), the pater fa­mil­ias, bal­ances driv­ing am­bi­tion with gen­uine af­fec­tion. We see young Wolf­gang Amadeus dis­played as a kind of trav­el­ling freak – play­ing the key­board blind­folded – but we also see the clan snug­gling up at night like a ver­sion of the von Trapp fam­ily.

As the ti­tle sug­gests, the picture re­mains fo­cused on Wolf­gang’s sis­ter, Nan­nerl (Marie Féret, daugh­ter to the di­rec­tor). We are given the sense that, in a dif­fer­ent time, the poor girl could have been as fa­mous as Wolf­gang. She plays with her brother, but finds her­self grad­u­ally edged to the side­lines. The vi­o­lin is, ap­par­ently, only for boys. No woman could pos­si­bly get her head around the cere­bral busi­ness that is com­po­si­tion.

Nan­nerl gets a chance to shine when she meets the French Dauphin. He, im­pressed by both her fig­ure and tal­ent, per­suades her to start com­pos­ing and ar­ranges for a cham­ber or­ches­tra to per­form the re­sult­ing piece.

Shot in and around Ver­sailles, the picture is good on the ici­ness, grub­bi­ness and messi­ness of 18th-cen­tury life: ar­riv­ing in Paris, the fam­ily is ad­vised not to drink the water. Points are made about the ob­sta­cle course put be­fore women try­ing to be artists. The mu­sic swirls se­duc­tively.

Still, it’s hard to avoid the con­clu­sion that Mozart’s Sis­ter is just a lit­tle too re­strained. It tin­kles nicely enough. But the odd surging ma­jor chord would not have gone astray.

Sis­ter act: im­press­ing the Dauphin

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