Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 
Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable

REVIEW | "Mozart's Sister" Fills in a Historical Gap With a Sad Saga

Photo of Eric Kohn By Eric Kohn | Indiewire August 16, 2011 at 4:03AM

The subject of much historical curiosity, Maria Anna "Nannerl" Mozart is also an ideal tragic hero. The older sister to Wolfgang Amadeus, she traveled Europe in the mid-18th century alongside her brother and their supportive parents, playing the harpsichord to back up Wolfgang's violin. Evidence suggests she harbored ambitions of composing her own works, but society held her down: Once Nannerl reached marrying age, she was forced to abandon her musical heritage and promptly dropped off the map. An inspiration to her younger brother, Nannerl may deserve more credit for Wolfgang's existing legacy than conventional accounts provide her, but the passage of time has made it difficult to reach any definitive conclusions.
0

The subject of much historical curiosity, Maria Anna "Nannerl" Mozart is also an ideal tragic hero. The older sister to Wolfgang Amadeus, she traveled Europe in the mid-18th century alongside her brother and their supportive parents, playing the harpsichord to back up Wolfgang's violin. Evidence suggests she harbored ambitions of composing her own works, but society held her down: Once Nannerl reached marrying age, she was forced to abandon her musical heritage and promptly dropped off the map. An inspiration to her younger brother, Nannerl may deserve more credit for Wolfgang's existing legacy than conventional accounts provide her, but the passage of time has made it difficult to reach any definitive conclusions.

Open-ended mysteries give storytellers room to play. "Mozart's Sister," a fictionalized take on Nannerl's teenage years written and directed by French filmmaker René Féret, puts a reasonable face on the character's blurry legacy. Predominantly set during the family's 1763 tour of European aristocracy, Féret emphasizes the shy Nannerl (played by the director's daughter, Marie Féret) and her constant desire to take center stage. Wolfgang (David Moreau), a 10-year-old subject to the vast expectations of their father Léopold (Marc Barbé) barely exists as more than a supportive prop in Nannerl's plight. At once beloved by her father and considered a secondary investment, Nannerl never seems convinced that she can realize her dream, but continually remains addicted to it. "I suffer my father's preference," she sighs, acknowledging that Wolfgang's career will always eclipse her own.

Féret's screenplay fleshes out Nannerl's personality with her routine attempts to change that dynamic. Banned from Wolfgang's composition classes, she eavesdrops from another room. When a friend asks Nannerl to deliver a letter to a young royal banned from coming close to unmarried women, she must dress as a boy, and takes the opportunity to step into her brother's shoes. "Pity the poor artist not driven by passion," someone tells her, and Nannerl repeatedly shows that, at least in that regard, she's rich indeed.

These mini-adventures proceed with a quiet, solemn progression, dominated by the overarching tragedy of a woman inescapably bound to the expectations of her time. The dialogue has a talky, somewhat stilted theatricality and occasionally suffers from the synthetic quality plaguing many low budget period pieces, but Marie Féret's performance gives the proceedings a realistic counterweight. The older Féret delicately explores the tension between Nannerl's father's supportive approach and the boundaries of his expectations. With scene after scene of understatement, "Mozart's Sister" constantly approaches the possibility of teen rebellion while making its impossibility the only certainty of Nannerl's oppressed existence.

Less biopic than character study, "Mozart Study" lingers in Nannerl's teen years, implying that she never quite left them. "Devotion does not negate temptation," she's told, and must agree, for no matter how much she commits to societal expectations, her musical interests hold strong. Féret ends with a close-up of his heroine's mournful young face, while several decades of events are described in a brief caption superimposed on the frame. For everything that "Mozart's Sister" imagines, it leaves much more up to imagination.

criticWIRE grade: B+

HOW WILL IT PLAY? Opening in New York and Los Angeles this weekend, "Mozart's Sister" should generate a solid turnout from a cross-section of classical music fans and French cinema aficionados, although its long-term prospects are comparatively slight.

This article is related to: In Theaters






Check out Indiewire on LockerDome on LockerDome



Awards Season Spotlight

Contender Conversations

Indiewire celebrates the best and brightest from Independent film, Hollywood, and foreign cinema.

More