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Vitus (7/10)

by Tony Medley

A good last hour makes up for a slow first hour in this film about a child prodigy who becomes unhappy at the way his parents, principally his mother, push him to play the piano. The film highlights the talents of real-life piano prodigy Teo Gheorghiu, who plays Vitus (pronounced Vee-tus), the 12-year-old talent. Gheorghiu is the real thing. He made his concerto debut at the age of 12 at the Tonhalle, Zürich with Schumann’s Piano Concerto accompanied by the Zürich Chamber Orchestra, which was followed by recitals in Berne, Zürich, Basel, San Marino, London and Bad Kissingen. The Neue Zürcher Zeitung commented, “To hear the fourteen-and-a-half year old play takes one’s breath away.”

The 6-year-old Vitus is played by the equally precocious Fabrizio Borsani. Says director Fredi M. Murer, “After one scene had been shot he asked me,’Is it OK like this, or would you like me to give you an alternative version?’”

Vitus’ mother (Julika Jenkins) pushes him to the point of his wanting to get away from her obsessiveness. The situation is compounded by his father’s (Urs Jucker) precarious financial situation with his company.

Not to worry. Vitus runs away from his family and, seemingly, his piano career, seeking refuge at the house of his eccentric grandfather (Bruno Ganz, who stole the movie when he played Hitler in Downfall). Vitus proves to be a prodigy in more than the piano and the story revolves around his coming to grips with his various talents.

While it’s a good story of being a child, well told by Murer, who also worked on the script with PeterLuisi and Lukas B. Suter, and well-acted, for me, there was not enough of watching Gheorghiu play the piano. The first hour was simply too long before the movie got into the relationship between Vitus and his grandfather. Once the film progressed beyond that first hour, however, it was very entertaining. Even if the story were less interesting, however, watching the incredibly talented Gheorghiu would be worth the price of admission.

In Swiss-German.

May 9, 2007