Directed by René Féret, (2.5/5).
Mozart’s Sister portrays the life of Anna Maria Mozart (nicknamed “Nannerl”), who was denied a similar path to that of her younger brother, Wolfgang. In the beginning, she is still performing, though overshadowed and sidelined as an accompanist by Wolfgang's growing fame. Her father bows to social strictures, refusing to let her continue with the violin or compose music (supposedly both beyond a woman's feeble brain), while privately conceding Nannerl's talent to his wife. The film explores questions of whether some of Wolfgang’s work was actually Nannerl’s, and what has been lost due to the assumptions of past generations that women were incapable of musical achievement.
The movie takes on the history of the 18th century, with characters very much products of their own age. Hence, gender inequality comes into play, though a pounding of feminist undertones in one’s ear is thankfully avoided. There is no finger-wagging in Mozart’s Sister; it merely attempts to be a picture in time, inhabited by characters restrained by their own gender. It would be far too easy to chastise generations for assuming that ability was dictated by sex; such judgments are still made today in the darkness of one’s own mind. For this reason, Mozart’s Sister was well poised to show the striking music of a neglected “Mozart”, from an unbiased view.
However, the story line was patchy at best. The film attempts to show Nannerl defining herself as a young woman in a time that put women firmly “in their place”. It felt as if the writer had difficulty deciding which element of Nannerl’s young womanhood they really wanted to focus on. As it bounced between Nannerl’s sexual awakening (sorry guys, no “money shot” moments), and her as an artist, it was difficult to tell which side of her story deserved more exploration. When it tried to give each strand an equal amount of time, the movie lost its way. This lack of conviction makes the movie difficult to invest in as it drudges along. A lack of commitment is apparent as one begins to question the validity of landmark events in Nannerl’s life. What results is that when the curtain finally falls, there is no feeling of loss, just a cinematic reminder that art doesn’t give you a hug.