Dir. René Féret, France, 2010, 120 mins, in French with subtitles
Cast: Marie Féret, Marc Barbé, Delphine Chuillot
Review by Carol Allen
Writer/director Féret has uncovered a potentially really interesting historical story here. His heroine is 14 year old Nannerl, five years older than her talented young brother Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The fact that Wolfgang’s father dragged his talented son round Europe to entertain the rich and famous of the day, like an eighteenth century version of Mrs Worthington, is well known. But Nannerl it appears was part of the entourage, accompanying little Wolfgang on the harpsichord.
Being a girl though, her musical career was strictly limited. Though the implication of the film is that she too has a considerable talent, she is not allowed to play the violin, it being an unsuitable instrument for a woman, and her father, concentrating his attention on his prodigy son, pours scorn on her attempts at composition. According to Féret ‘s version of the story, she becomes friends with Louise, one of the many daughters of the King Louis XV, who is confined to a nunnery because of her gender, and she also becomes the protégée and nearly the mistress of Louise’s brother, the Dauphin, who encourages her efforts at musical composition. All potentially dramatically engrossing material.
Féret’s treatment of the story though is disappointingly pedestrian and often so low key it almost drops off the bottom of the scale. He has cast his daughter Marie as Nannerl, and while pretty enough, her performance is frankly a bit dull. Féret’s younger daughter Lisa brings a bit of a spark to the role of Louise and there’s an interesting performance from Clovis Fouin as the Dauphin, a widower at 17, deeply religious and appalled by his father’s dissolute life – Louis XV was dominated by his mistress Madame de Pompadour, but disappointingly we see nothing of that side of court life.
Compared to the vivacity and passion of Amadeus, Peter Schaffer’s tale of that other musical talent Salieri, who was also outshone by young Wolfgang, this is pallid stuff indeed. The film lacks emotion and the characters fail to draw us in.