"BUT THINK if we had been males!"
Louise de France, the daughter of King Louis XV of France, makes this declaration to Nannerl Mozart, sister of the great composer Wolfgang. It's a sentiment that must have been felt by countless women, bound by their gender to bear and care for children, not expected or allowed to do much else with their lives.
Nannerl Mozart (played by Marie Feret, daughter of the director Rene Feret) was a gifted musician, just like her more famous brother. But she is not allowed into the composition lessons her stage dad, Leopold (Marc Barbe), gives to her brother (David Moreau) and is forbidden from playing the violin because it is not a woman's instrument. She is relegated to accompanying her brother on the harpsichord as the family travels around playing for royalty across Western Europe.
Rene Feret speculates on the artist that could have been as he focuses on Nannerl at 15. Stuck in a transient state between girl and woman, Nannerl dresses as a man for an audience with the young Dauphin (Clovis Fouin), who encourages her to write her own music and engages her in chaste flirting. (In reality, the Dauphin was decades older than Nannerl and these meetings wouldn't have happened.)
That's the problem with most of the movie. It's entirely too chaste. Nannerl is clearly a woman repressed, but Feret gives this potentially great woman no life, no spark. It's not that she isn't frustrated by the prospect of a limited career. When she finds a diary meant to document her musical progression, it is filled with her brother's stunning accomplishments. "I suffer my father's preference even in my own notebook," she declares.
But Feret plays Nannerl as flat, and the movie lacks any emotional crescendo. When she finally decides to give up her music, there's little reason to mourn her sacrifice because it doesn't seem so great.
It's difficult to understand this choice; the purpose of "Mozart's Sister" seems to be to highlight the countless women cloistered into subservience, but Nannerl in this imagining hardly seems the feminist poster child.