Monday, April 15, 2013

N is for Nannerl, Mozart's Sister

France 2010
Running Time: 120 minutes
Cast: Marie Feret, Marc Barbe, Delphine Chuillot, David Moreau, Clovis Fouin
Director: Rene Feret
Screenplay: Rene Feret
Cinematography: Benjamin Echazaretta

Many films have covered the life of the prodigiously talented Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, but this is the first time the life of his perhaps equally talented sister has been mined.  Nannerl faced numerous challenges in her pursuit of a musical career, not the least of which was her sex.

In focusing on the lesser-known Mozart, writer/director Rene Feret has almost entirely ignored the younger Mozart’s output and influence.  His role in this film is merely to make it possible for the impoverished family to travel in circles higher than their own.  This is how Nannerl ends up playing before the recently bereaved Dauphin of France and manages to capture his heart with her music.

The Dauphin is so captivated by this unknown composer, he demands a meeting.  Custom dictates that no woman can have contact with the bereaved until the mourning period is over, so Nannerl must disguise herself as a boy.  Like the plot of one of Mozart’s comic operas, the Dauphin falls for the young boy.  The relationship is doomed though, with the Mozart family moving on to London for their next engagement.

Nannerl pleads with her mother for freedom to do what she wants to do – compose – and is soon on her way back to Paris to try and make a name for herself. Or at least make her own way in the world.

But Nannerl’s talent is not enough to keep her from the affairs of court, and she doesn’t manage to fight her way to what she wants musically or personally.

By chance Nannerl meets one of Louis X V’s daughters, a young firecracker whose determination not be just another servile woman destined to cook and clean for a lifetime matches her own.  While Nannerl’s dreams are crushed by doomed love and a lack of focused ambition, Louise becomes a repentant sinner who gives her life to the church after narrowly missing an incestuous relationship.

With exceptional music, fabulous costume design and strong performances, Nannerl, Mozart’s Sister is a fascinating insight into a time and a life we know little about.


  1. I didn't even know Mozart had a sister, a talented sister at that. No doubt she suffered many challenges in that time period. Is this film on CD? After your description of it, I want to see it. Does the name Nannerl have any special meaning?

    Great post.

    1. I'm sure you can get it on DVD. And I don't think Nannerl has any particular meaning - it was just her name, like her brother's was Wolfgang.