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by Wolfgang Murnberger

grade: 5

In Little Big Voice – a television film directed by Wolfgang Murnberger in 2015 – good feelings, in the end – and as one can well imagine – always triumph. And they do so, again and again, in an almost forced way, with overly abrupt narrative twists. So abrupt that they almost lose credibility.

Birdlike voice

If Austrian director Wolfgang Murnberger has made a name for himself abroad thanks to the saga dedicated to detective Brenner (played by comedian Josef Hader), which began in 2000 with the feature film Come Sweet DeathCome sweet Death, let us not forget that he has dedicated – and continues to dedicate – a large part of his career to television. And if we think of one of his most recent works, Little Big Voice (original title: Kleine Grosse Stimme), made in 2015 and intended, precisely, for television (but distributed in several foreign countries), is among his most successful feature films. Is it true “glory”? Let us go step by step.

Young Benedikt (Wainde Wane) is a coloured boy, the son of an Austrian woman (recently deceased) and an American soldier. The boy, who lives with his maternal grandparents, has two dreams: to find his father (possibly by joining him in America) and to join the choir of the Wiener Sängerknaben, the city’s most prestigious choir of young Viennese singers. For this reason, the boy will soon run away from home and attend an audition to join a prestigious music school. There he will meet teachers Max (David Rott) and Elsa (Miriam Stein) who, despite the many hostilities the young man will encounter, will always be ready to help him.

A story, this one staged in Little Big Voice, which is first and foremost an apologia for good feelings, in an Austria where – although about ten years have passed since the end of World War II – the scars of war and Nazi dictatorship are still evident. If, then, the war is long since over, dangerously racist and anti-Semitic thoughts are still alive in many inhabitants. This is the case, for example, of one of the school teachers, who has always been hostile towards the young protagonist, as well as some of his schoolmates. Will it be, then, true talent – together with a strong, very strong passion – that will finally break down certain walls?

In Little Big Voice, good feelings always triumph in the end – as one can well imagine. And they do so, again and again, in an almost forced way, with excessively abrupt narrative twists (see, above all, the change in the relationship between Benedikt and one of his classmates, who has always been hostile towards him). So abrupt that they almost completely lose credibility.

A film, this one, which mainly suffers because of a script that often gives the impression of getting lost along the way, forgetting what its initial intention is. And if, in fact, it focuses very little on the sacrifices made by the young protagonist in order to be able to join the choir, it is the relationship between the two young teachers (Max and Elsa) and the moments when they are both flirting that comes into focus. In terms of the little boy’s fate, after several vicissitudes, the whole thing takes such a forced and unnatural twist to the point of seeming even cloying, intent on pleasing the audience through easy and banal tricks.

If, then, we add to all this a mise-en-scene that, overall, is scarcely suitable for the big screen (but, on the other hand, wasn’t it precisely for television that a film like Little Big Voice was conceived?), we realise how Wolfgang Murnberger seems decidedly at unease when dealing with such a film. With a film whose main intention is to appeal to as many spectators as possible. Without forgetting that, perhaps, it is the spectators themselves who are always asking for something more. And, at the end of the screening, all we can do is regret the misadventures of detective Brenner, hoping that the saga dedicated to him can continue with other exciting chapters.

Original title: Kleine Grosse Stimme
Directed by: Wolfgang Murnberger
Country/year: Austria / 2015
Running time: 90’
Genre: drama, musical
Cast: Wainde Wane, David Rott, Miriam Stein, Karl Merkatz, Tyron Ricketts, Erwin Steinhauer, Philipp Hochmair, Branko Samarovski, Margarete Tiesel, Timotheus Hollweg, Aeneas Hollweg, Enzo Gaier, Jakob Eder, Christoph Kail, Jeff Ricketts, Günther Lainer, Michael Welz
Screenplay: Rupert Henning, Michaela Ronzoni, Eva Spreitzhofer
Cinematography: Peter von Haller
Produced by: ARD Degeto Film, Bayerischer Rundfunk, Mona Film, ORF

Info: the page of Little Big Voice on iMDb; the page of Little Big Voice on coming soon