Posted by Jill Boniske aka Arty Chick on October 21, 2011
Pity the forgotten ones living in the shadows of the famous, the siblings who are mere footnotes in history. Who knew Mozart had a sister? Her name was Maria Anna Walburga Ignatia Mozart, and she was five years older than Wolfie. When he was a baby she was the prodigy, but he soon stole the limelight. Nannerl, as she was affectionately known, was probably an accomplished composer in her own right and by all accounts an incredible performer, but she was damned by virtue of being born female. Mozart’s Sister takes this kernel of a true story and builds a period drama around it.
In the fictionalized version, the Mozart family is on the road, wowing all the crowned heads in Europe. Wolfgang is the star, but Nannerl is an important part of the act. A broken axle forces them to stop at a convent, where almost 15-year-old Nannerl meets several French princesses, one of whom becomes her BFF. And when the Mozarts arrive in Paris, Nan agrees to deliver a love letter to the princess’s beau. But as an unknown woman she cannot meet up with him because the beau is hanging out with the recently widowed Dauphin (Crown Prince), and so the intrigue begins. Nannerl dresses as a boy, delivers the letter, and strikes up a friendship with the Dauphin.
Meanwhile, she wants to be a composer like Wolfie, but Dad tells her she has no talent and anyway, she’s a girl and girls don’t do that. He won’t even let her continue to play the violin because it is not ladylike and she is fast approaching marriageable age. But BFF Dauphin thinks she has talent and asks her/him to write him something, giving her the praise she craves, (and there is a bit of a romantic subplot with the two of them.)
Mozart’s Sister is an interesting if not terribly exciting period drama. I think Mainstream Chick would fall asleep, but much of the music is wonderful and the actors are all quite good. The girl who plays Nannerl (Marie Féret) is the director’s (René Féret) daughter. In the end though the message is sad and maddening — yet another talented artist was marginalized simply for having two X chromosomes. You have to wonder what great things might have been written had her father and her time not worked against her. I don’t think you need to run out to see it in a theater, but when it comes to Netflix, it is definitely worth a look.
In French with Subtitles
(There have been several books about Nannerl in the past couple of years, but this is not an adaptation.)