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Review: Mozart's Sister

Published: Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Updated: Wednesday, December 7, 2011 16:12


Mozart's Sister

Starring Marie Féret, Marc Barbé, Delphine Chuillot

Directed by René Féret

Not rated

Opens Friday

Grade: B


Wolfgang Mozart had an older sister, a prodigy who lived, breathed and inhabited music as naturally and completely as he did and won plaudits from the crowned heads of Europe in the 1760s. Director René Féret's "Mozart's Sister" looks at the family's life from the point of view of that sister, Maria Anna, called Nannerl, and asks what might have been had she, too, been a boy.

It opens in 1763, with the Mozarts – Leopold, the controlling, stingy father (Marc Barbé); devoted mother Anna Maria (Delphine Chuillot); Nannerl (the luminous Marie Féret, the director's daughter) and Wolfgang (David Moreau), loving siblings and co-conspirators — on their three-year grand tour of Europe.

On the way to Paris, a problem with their carriage leads to a stay in a nearby convent, where Nannerl meets the three youngest daughters of the King of France and makes a good friend in the last, Louise (Lisa Féret, another daughter of René Féret). At court, Nannerl meets the Dauphin, who is taken by her talents, and commissions her to write a concerto.

"Mozart's Sister" is a melancholy but utterly beautiful film. (It was filmed in part at Versailles.) Significantly, although it takes a fundamentally feminist view, its characters are rooted in their time and place. Nannerl struggles with her destiny, but finally accepts it.

Historically accurate in its look, the film offers a heavily fictionalized account of the Mozarts' lives. Féret has made the children older, to help with plot twists and allow Nannerl a romantic interest; in 1763, she was 12 and her brother was 7. Nannerl's music (composed by Marie-Jeanne Serero) belongs to a later era; it's very much Romantic, not Classical.

Still, the film catches the Mozarts' true personalities in a way that Peter Shaffer's "Amadeus" never approaches. In one scene, the siblings playfully improvise musical variations, and then joyfully rush to the clavier to write them down: There is the essence of Mozart.

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