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Mozart’s Sister

by Suzanne Yanko

Mozart’s Sister explores the coming of age of Maria Anna ‘Nannerl’ Mozart (Marie Feret), the older sister of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, as their father Leopold leads the family through Europe to perform for the aristocracy. Ironically, the Australian release drops the young woman’s name from the film’s title (in France it was known as Nannerl, la soeur de Mozart) thereby defining her in terms of her famous brother and somewhat diminishing her identity. This overshadowing is at the heart of the film, as Nannerl the musician struggles for recognition in her own family, let alone 18th century society. Papa Mozart reputedly exploited his children’s musical talents, particularly those of Wolfgang, a composer and violinist well before the age of 11, a claim which Mozart’s Sister bears out. Three years older than her brother, Nannerl is relegated to being just his accompanist, although there are early suggestions that she helped him compose some of his work. Her own ambitions to compose are severely quashed by her father. Her sonata is “full of absurd notes,” he tells her. Nonetheless, the Mozarts’ family life is shown to be warm, intimate, even fun (memorably depicted in a scene where the Mozarts encounter an early form of water-closet in a grand house). Intimate conversations in the semi-dark are a recurrent motif in the film, and the family talk together of the sorrows of the King’s daughters, who are being raised in an abbey far from their parents. (Interestingly, the film itself is very much a family affair, with writer/director/producer Rene Feret casting his 15-year-old daughter, Marie in the title role, and involving other family members as well.) It is Nannerl’s friendship with another child, Chiffe (played by another of Feret’s daughters), that draws her into the world of the Versailles court, a little cross-dressing, and an attraction to the Dauphin, Louis. Almost as seductive as the prospect of an affair with him is his invitation to her to compose music for him. Mozart’s Sister is not a tale of epic proportions, perhaps because no real effort is made to suggest that Nannerl was a composer of genius, as her brother was. But it’s a nice touch that the film’s soundtrack features music by female composer, Marie-Jeanne Serero. Critics have disagreed about the merit of the performances. I found the actors well cast, and the characterisations credible. But the overall impression was that of watching a rich and detailed series of paintings given life and movement, visually satisfying, but not entirely engrossing as a drama. Rating: Four stars Mozart’s Sister Written and directed by Rene Feret Cast: Marie Feret, Marc Barbe, Delphine Chuillot, David Moreau, Clovis, Fouin Lisa Feret, Julien Feret France, 2010, 120 mins Rated PG Now showing nationally in limited release

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