Mozart's Sister: When Your Brother is Wolfgang Amadeus, Life Is Hard


Mozart's Sister
Directed by René Féret
Music Box Films
Opens August 19, Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center

In heavily outlining the tragedies and injustices that befell the musically gifted older sister of Wolfgang "Amadeus," writer-director René Féret underplays the most interesting elements in this story of Maria Anna "Nannerl" Mozart. Forced by their father to tour under hellish circumstances, young Wolfgang and Nannerl traverse Europe year-round, performing recitals for aristocrats who often stiff them. But the real humiliation occurs when teenage Nannerl, forbidden by her father from writing her own music, is reduced to accompanist for her baby brother; women simply are not composers or serious musicians. The father's edict sets the course for Nannerl's bitter life, most of which is told in postscript. But before we get there, the turgid film's margins contain a young princess-turned-nun whose friendliness with Nannerl carries more than a whiff of the Sapphic; and a tortured, married young nobleman who has Nannerl cross-dress so they can meet without arousing suspicion. These subplots hint at what could have been, nudging the film toward biting rather than obvious commentary on the intersections of gender, sexuality, and creativity, and the costs of thwarting expression of any of them. But Féret barely explores this, and the film suffers for it.

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Sarah D.
Sarah D.

Stiff, stultified acting and an absurd script given to speechifying turned an intriguing subject into a boring, forgettable, sometimes annoying film. It's hard to tell where the problem is in the script, acting, or directing, but what was probably intended to be subtle came across as simply dead, and you could almost see the actors wondering, "Is this the spot I'm supposed to be standing on? Do I look sad enough? The director will tell me if I'm not in frame, right? Is this frowny face good?"

The dauphin portrayed here would have been in his mid-30s, so the actor appeared a bit young. Nannerl looked older than the 14-15 she was supposed to be and Wolfgang looked 8 rather than the 11 he was supposed to be. Everyone was good looking and the costumes were pretty.

Fluff. Too bad, because Nannerl's story and the real oppression of women she exemplifies are simply polemical here, not deeply felt. Not one of the actors drew me in. You want to be rooting for Nannerl, not witnessing her catatonia.


That "tortured, married young nobleman" is the Dauphin, heir to the throne of France, the future Louis XVI, who was killed during the French Revolution. Doesn't anyone know any history these days?


if the NY times review of the movie is to be believed, Louis XVI is actually the Dauphin's son.


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