Judge Roman Martel hopes you like harpsichord music, because this movie is jam packed with it!
Leopold Mozart proudly presents his son, Wolfgang Mozart. Oh yeah, and his daughter Nannerl will play something too.
If you've seen the film Amadeus, then you're familiar with the fact that Leopold Mozart (Marc Barbe, The Queen of Clubs) traveled all around Europe showing off the musical skills of his young son Wolfgang (David Moreau in his first film). His wife Anna-Maria (Delphine Chuillot, Pandorum) and daughter Maria Anna (Marie Feret, L'enfant du pays), affectionally known as Nannerl, journeyed with them. In many cases Nannerl would play the harpsichord to accompany her brother's work on the violin, and even perform a few pieces on her own.
Mozart's Sister is a bit of fiction based on these few facts. It covers the time the family spent in Paris, performing for the French royal court. Nannerl meets the princess Louise (Lisa Feret, L'enfant du pays) and becomes a confidant to the young girl. But it's her meeting with the Dauphin (Clovis Fouin, Les vivants et les mortise) that truly inspires Nannerl, not only to write music, but to perform it for him. She is obviously quite taken with the prince, and he is intrigued by her. But the motives of the royal family are often in question, and soon the Mozarts find themselves in a potentially dangerous situation.
Music is the driving force behind Mozart's Sister. The entire family is steeped in creating and performing music, but as Nannerl reaches adulthood, her father wants to remove her from it. In the first scene, he chastises her for playing the violin, a man's instrument. As we watch, she is relegated more and more to the background of Wolfgang's center stage, not because she doesn't have the skill, but because she is a girl. When Nannerl meets the Dauphin, she's dressed as a boy, and it's because of this she is able to realize how talented a musician she actually is. Thankfully, the movie stays away from wacky crossdressing hijinks, instead using those scenes to give us a clear perspective on the gifts Nannerl will be forced to leave behind.
Enhancing the story are Veronica Fruhbrodt's excellent production designs. Location shooting in France provides an amazing visual backdrop. Interiors are lit with candles and natural light, giving the film a distinct visual look. Dominique Louis' costumes are lush and certainly evoke the 1760s. Marie-Jeanne Serero's musical score is made of original compositions done in period music style, suiting the film very well; harpsichord lovers will be in heaven.
A couple things keep Mozart's Sister from really clicking…
• Marie Feret, daughter of director Rene Feret, looks great in costume, but never seems completely invested in the role of Nannerl. There were quite a few scenes where she seemed to be waiting for her cues, instead of actively listening to the conversation. Other times, she does a fine job, especially in her interplay with Wolfgang and Louise (who is played by her sister Lisa). But since Nannerl is the focus of the film, a stronger actress could have made a significant difference.
• The story feels a bit thin, its two-hour running time feeling stretched in places. The music and visuals are almost enough to overcome the deficiency, but a little more depth to the characters and some deft editing could have resulting in a better film.
Music Box gives the film an average DVD release. The standard definition 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is clear; even when the lighting is dim, details are not lost. The DTS 5.1 Surround track is well-balanced, its score never overpowering the dialogue, and subtitles are easy to read. While there are no extras in regards to the making of the film, we do get a copy of the soundtrack on CD.
Even though I mentioned Amadeus at the beginning of the review, there is no comparison between the two films. Amadeus strove to be an excellent film in every way. Mozart's Sister wants to be a compelling costume drama, and somewhat succeeds.
Bland, but Not Guilty.
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Studio: Music Box Films
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