Wolfgang was not the only child prodigy in the Mozart family. His sister Nannerl, almost five years older, was an accomplished singer and musician. In Mozart's Sister, writer/director René Féret tells the absorbing and ultimately tragic story of this gifted young woman now forgotten by history. The connection to the celebrated musical genius of Wolfgang Amadeus will add to the appeal of the film, particularly to music and period film aficionados.
In the 18th Century, Mozart patriarch Leopold (Marc Barbé) travels by stage coach with his family throughout Europe at great expense to show off his children's musical talents, teenage Nannerl (Marie Féret, the director's 15-year-old daughter) and the mischievous young Wolfgang (David Moreau). They amaze their audiences with their youthful talent. Though they're prodigies, Nannerl and Wolfgang are still childish enough for an exuberant pillow fight.
While her brother plays the violin, Nannerl accompanies him on the harpsichord. Though proficient herself on the violin, Nannerl's father eventually forbids her to play it, telling her the instrument is not appropriate for a young woman. As Wolfgang gains more notoriety, Leopold focuses attention on him, neglecting Nannerl.
René Féret's screenplay contains many unusual historical details that help his film sustain interest throughout. When the Mozart family stays at a convent, Nannerl meets Louise de France, daughter of French King Louis XV. Louise (Lisa Féret, the 13-year-old daughter of the director) lives in the convent, very distant from her family at court. Passing on a letter from Louise when her family visits the royal court of Versailles, Marie meets the young Dauphin (Clovis Fouin), son of the King. Offended by the decadent lifestyle of his father, the Dauphin has become very religious.
Marie Féret impressively conveys Nannerl's innate intelligence as well as her youthful inexperience. Other cast members also give natural and subtle performances, particularly Fouin as the conflicted Dauphin.
As director, Féret was influenced by "the beauty and slowness" of Kubrick's Barry Lyndon and Rossellini's The Rise of Louis XIV. His richly atmospheric film has a deliberate pace, which feels authentic to the period. Filming was done in the opulent palace of Versailles in what looks like candle light.
The Dauphin recognizes Nannerl's talent and asks her to compose music. She plays her music at night dressed as a young man because such performing was closed off to women. The shadowy interiors emphasize the sense of constriction for Nannerl and add tension to Nannerl's disguise and to her growing relationship with the Dauphin.
Mozart's Sister has a deep sensitivity for its protagonist, a young woman trying to break away from the constraints the period has imposed on her.
Distributor: Music Box Films
Cast: Marie Féret, Marc Barbé, Delphine Chuillot, David Moreau and Clovis Fouin
Director/Screenwriter: René Féret
Producers: René Féret and Fabienne Féret
Genre: Historical Drama; French-language, subtitled
Running Time: 120 min.
Release Date: September 16 ltd.