Sweden's Bloodless Brothers


The Mozart Brothers

Directed by Suzanne Osten

At the USA Copley Place

In Swedish with English Subtitles

WITH HIS psychological studies of unhappiness, Ingemar Bergman may have sunk Swedish filmmaking into the depths of depression. With My Life as a Dog and now The Mozart Brothers, Sweden surfaces again. Brothers is a flippant film about the links between music and Mozart, opera and eroticism. Unfortunately, it is also a hodgepodge of inexplicable touches.

The Svenska Film Institute's latest American release traces the odd evolution of an avant-garde production of Mozart's famous opera Don Giovanni. It centers around the whims of Walter (Etienne Glaser), the opera's director, who wants his actors to get in touch with the erotic and ends up offending all with his outrageous demands. The Mozart Brothers asks: "How can Walter reconcile his ideas with those of his cast and crew?"

He does not know at first, and his superiors give him little help. His producer, a pretentious man who cannot stick to one language, prefers to give him carte blanche, saying in English "I believe in you, Walter." His young lover scrupulously films Walter's every twitch, simultaneously mocking his efforts at producing an original operatic extravaganza. And Mozart, who from time to time peers at the goings-on from a distance, only offers Walter a kiss on the lips as a token of support. Left to his own devices, Walter tries his best to put some new intriguing twists on Don Giovanni.

His innovations, however, completely fail to create the shock and amusement on which Director Suzanne Osten depends. Although the caprices of the opera's director are intended to be humorous, they become silly jabs at the works of great modern directors. Walter's ideas just aren't that intriguing, and they're not even risque.

So what if he did have the orchestra play in the nude in a production in Oslo, or if he wants his opera stars to roll in mud onstage? Stripped of its avant-garde allure, The Mozart Brothers falls apart. Left behind is a dull expose of empty personal relationships between Walter, his ex-wife, the actors, his children and his new lover.

THE OPERA stars in The Mozart Brothers can certainly sing, but their performances are nothing to shout about. For instance, Ia (Agneta Ekmanner) overacts the hysterical woman even beyond the call of role and duty. And as Walter, Etienne Glaser lacks the intelligent aura his part requires. He can say, "In opera we are like silence in music," but it is neither profound nor comic. And the custodians and maids of the opera house flit across the screen just long enough to express their views.

The film's ultimate failure in part lies in its inability to depict gender relationships with anything but confusion. The exploration of sexuality is clearly a central theme in The Mozart Brothers, but Osten and her actors seem to be playing with emotions, rather than building towards a meaningful conclusion about the role of the sexual in their personal and professional lives.

The Mozart Brothers tries without success to impress its viewers with its audacity, wit, and eroticism. Suzanne Osten may have had it in mind to emulate the metaphysical musings of such directors as Carlos Suara, who directed the innovative Carmen, but she has completely missed her mark. Her film turns out to be a dull mishmash of tasteless scenes and plodding plot.