by Karl Hartl
Particularly accurate in its settings and sufficiently attentive to the love torments of the two young protagonists, The Life and Loves of Mozart is distinguished by a direction that, however, would have needed more closeness to the characters themselves, in order to better render their internal conflicts derived from the difficult choices they have to make. In competition at the 1956 Cannes Film Festival.
Mozart’s final years
Over the years, the great Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1956 – 1791) has fascinated numerous artists and writers from all over the world, who have, in their own way, wanted to delve into his artistic genius and his unfortunately all too short life. Could the film world therefore remain indifferent to a personality like him? Absolutely not. And indeed, even in the world of the seventh art there are numerous feature films dedicated to him. Suffice it to think, just to mention the most famous of these, of the beautiful Amadeus, made by Miloš Forman in 1984. But while the United States wanted to ‘have their say’ on the famous composer, Austria, his homeland, also wanted to dedicate more than one homage to him on film. Thus, director Karl Hartl made The Life and Loves of Mozart in 1955, which had its world premiere in competition at the 1956 Cannes Film Festival.
In The Life and Loves of Mozart, therefore, the composer was played by great Oskar Werner, who gave life to a Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart with a particularly resolute character, married to Constanze (Gertrud Kückelmann), madly in love with young soprano Annie Gottlieb (Johanna Matz) and about to embark on a new, important phase of his career.
Karl Hartl, in fact, told us about the final years of Mozart’s life, starting from the time when he decided to move away from the court environment and start collaborating with the director Emanuel Schikaneder (Erich Kunz), in order to give life to what would become one of his most famous operas: The Magic Flute. It was at this time, therefore, that Mozart met Annie, who was initially to play the role of Pamina in the opera, and, during a period of his wife’s absence, began an affair with her. At the moment when Annie was presented with the opportunity to turn her career around away from home, the composer’s health began to worsen. What to do? Give up on her dreams or risk never seeing her beloved again?
When Karl Hartl made The Life and Loves of Mozart, Austria was already beginning to experiment with new cinematic languages and move away from the genre of the Wiener Film, i.e. costume films (usually dramas or love stories) that had been so successful in previous decades (and the famous trilogy by Ernst Marischka dedicated to Elisabeth of Austria had yet to be made). Hartl, however, was one of the directors who decided to continue this trend and in this feature film of his he decided to mainly emphasise the personality of his protagonist at a decisive moment in his life. In contrast to what he had done in 1942 with Whom the Gods Love, where, instead, we were told the composer’s life almost in its entirety.
The final outcome, however, is a film that lacks the necessary personality to qualify as a memorable work in all respects. Particularly meticulous in its settings and sufficiently attentive with regard to the love torments of the two young protagonists, The Life and Loves of Mozart is distinguished by a direction that, nevertheless, would have needed more closeness to the characters themselves, in order to better render their internal conflicts derived from the difficult choices to be made. Yet Karl Hartl did not give us a single close-up, seeming at times even excessively detached from the events.
The timeless music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the theatre full of jubilant spectators during the premiere of The Magic Flute, but also the music of the Requiem, his last work, do their duty and undoubtedly succeed in moving the viewer. Yet all this, unfortunately, is not enough and one gets the impression that The Life and Loves of Mozart is always missing something. The times when Hartl had gained worldwide recognition with the beautiful The Angel with the Trumpet (1948) seem, by now, sadly distant.
Original title: Mozart
Directed by: Karl Hartl
Country/year: Austria / 1955
Running time: 100’
Genre: biographical, drama
Cast: Oskar Werner, Johanna Matz, Gertrud Kückelmann, Nadja Tiller, Erich Kunz, Angelika Hauff, Annie Rosar, Hugo Gottschlich, Chariklia Baxevanos, Albin Skoda, Raoul Aslan, Walter Regelsberger, Elfie Weissenböck, Alma Seidler, Ulrich Bettac, Leopold Rudolf, Helli Servi, Raoul Retzer, Elisabeth Terval, Egon von Jordan, Fred Hennings, Franz Böheim, Peter Brand, Karl Eidlitz, Karl Skraup, Albert Rueprecht, Richard Szokoll
Screenplay: Karl Hartl, Egon Komorzynski, Franz Tassié
Cinematography: Oskar Schnirch
Produced by: Cosmopol-Film