BY MIRIAM RINN
This French costume drama about Wolfgang Mozart’s older sister Nannerl is a family affair. Written, produced, and directed by Rene Feret, it was edited by his wife Fabienne Feret and stars their daughters Marie and Lisa as Nannerl and as the young Louise de France, respectively. Slow and stately, the film follows the prodigiously talented Nannerl as she’s eclipsed by her brilliant brother and tries to establish herself as a composer in 18th century France, no small matter for a 15-year-old girl. Not surprisingly, the film is filled with music; the original soundtrack is by composer and concert pianist Marie Jeanne Serero.
Originally the main attraction in the traveling Mozart show, Nannerl is soon overshadowed by the prodigy Wolfgang, five years her junior. Although her father has taught them both, Leopold Mozart (Marc Barbe) realizes that Wolfgang is his star and will keep the family in royal engagements. Also, Nannerl is now approaching the age of marriage so it‘s no longer appropriate for her to be at center stage. Forbidden to compose or to play the violin, Nannerl is relegated to accompanist and singer, but she‘s so fond of the charming and mischievous Wolfgang (David Moreau) that she takes her demotion in stride. Feret presents the family as warm and close, and that’s a good thing, because in the 18th century everyone slept in the same room and often in the same bed.
As Leopold shleps his family from one royal court to another, Feret succeeds in portraying the exhausting effort of travel at the time and the precarious existence of the artist. Their fortune depended on the interest and approval of aristocrats, always a tricky challenge. When Louise, Louis XV’s youngest daughter, learns the Mozarts are moving on to Versailles from the monastery where she‘s been exiled and they‘ve landed briefly, she asks Nannerl, to deliver a letter. The two girls have developed a friendship, and the Feret sisters express that affection with genuine warmth. As a result, Nannerl meets Le Dauphin, a passionate music lover. She is dressed as a young man since the prince is forbidden to meet women in case he shares his father‘s depravity, and the two of them discuss their mutual passion for music. Court life is complicated, and the prince has a fragile hold on sanity, but Nannerl convinces herself that this relationship might give her some independence when the family moves on again to England.