Switzerland’s official 2006 Academy Award entry for Best Foreign Language Film is a story about Vitus, a child prodigy, who is struggling with his musical gift.
Vitus’ loving mother (Julika Jenkins) and father (Urs Jucker) place high hopes in Vitus’ pursuit of a career as a classical pianist but, blinded by their personal wishes and desires, they gradually get trapped by their ambitious expectations of him.
Vitus tries to find creative ways to express freely his childhood imagination and talent, as symbolically illustrated by his desire to fly away from rigid constraints imposed on him. Wanting to find acceptance, Vitus begins to lead a double life.
The internationally renowned Bruno Ganz delivers an effortless and natural performance along with well known stage actress Julika Jenkins and Urs Jucker.
The young actors include charismatic performances by Fabrizio Borsani, as the 6 years old Vitus, Teo Gheorghiu as the 12 years old Vitus, Kristina Lykowa as the 12 years old babysitter Isabel, and Tamara Scarpellini as 19 years old Isabel.
Breathtaking are the piano performances by the real child prodigy, Teo Gheorghiu, the 2004 First Prize winner of the San Marino International Piano Competition, and the 2005 First Prize winner of the Franz Liszt International Piano Competition in Weimar, Germany. In the movie, Gheorghiu plays various concerti and sonatas excerpts including compositions by Mendelssohn, Liszt, Bach and Schumann.
This feature is somewhat personal to the acclaimed Swiss director Fredi M. Murer, who also co-wrote the script. Vitus’ parents and grandfather depicted in the movie portray actual family members of Murer who were influential in his upbringing.
Murer confides that as a child he led a normal life, but always wished to become a musical genius. On the contrary, Vitus is a genius who desires to become normal.
Though fictional, the film paints a realistic portrayal of stresses in a child growing up, through engaging characters and some humor.
While well paced in the first half, it is in the second half that the story gains momentum. Vitus’ (Teo Gheorghiu) vitality as well as his introspection comes out through the bond he shares with his eccentric and charismatic grandfather (Bruno Ganz). Now freely able to put his mind at work, Vitus develops into a more confident character and accomplishes the unimaginable.
We can find all the answers within ourselves, says Murer, “if we could only listen to our inner voice, we could reach for the stars.”
*In Swiss, German, and English language