Monday, November 21, 2011

Mozart's Sister (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

Mozart's Sister

"Mozart's Sister", the new French drama by Rene Feret focuses on Nannerl, (Marie Feret) Mozart's sister who was discouraged from the violin and kept from composing music although there is evidence that she was every bit as talented as her famous younger brother The film, subtle in tone and easy on the eyes, maintains a kind of Gothic existential edge, like something out of Thomas Hardy. But fans of period dramas will be taken by the film's  sweep and attention to detail. Subtle it may seem, but in the end a father's control is no less vicious or vexing than "Dangerous Liaisons".

Nannerl accompanies young Mozart as he is taken on tour to musical concert appointments and special commissions. They fawn over the five year old child prodigy while the older sister, can't get a word in edgewise, let alone play music or compose. She is either humored along or solidly thwarted. Nannerl is always told that the violin is not an instrument for a woman.

The father, Leopold (Marc Feret) is an ultra-controlling stage dad. Every aspect of the Mozart family is controlled. When the parents stop at an abbey to get their coach fixed, Nannerl meets the pale and secretive Louise de France (Lisa Feret) who happens to be the King's daughter. Louise is more than a bit spooky. She always seems to hover. Louise's brother, Le Dauphin (Clovis Fouin) is also a bit of a ghoul with his staring eyes. Nannerl develops an attraction to Le Dauphin but you get the feeling that she is shuttled back and forth between all kinds of crazy disfunction. All she cares about is the liberating curves of a violin; its shapeliness is an island that she cannot reach. Nor can she compose in peace.  Nannerl is often left resigned and wistful, displaced on a rock without music. She seems the only one with her sanity. The father immediately starts screaming whenever he hears Nannerl at the piano, Louise talks of the devil and Le Dauphin is prone to sudden unpredictable rages.

Mozart is only ten here and treats the violin as his whimsical magic wand that can do anything. We wish that his sister, being just as gifted had access to that magic. Sexism, puritanical religion and parental control all conspire against her, making a three armed prison.
"Mozart's Sister" doesn't have any grand flourishes but it sneaks up on you with a slow step, offering a haunt and a voice to what it must be like to live under expectation, to compromise and finally give up. 

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