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Director Muller says Vitus grew out of his own childhood fantasy: to be a genius. Other fantasies also play out in this completely guileless, charming story.
(Teo Gheorghiu is, in fact, a brilliant pianist. Now 14, he played in person before the screening and proved that, in fact, all the musicianship on display is real. The 5-yr old Vitus also plays.) Happier, and funnier, than Little Man Tate. IMO, what is thoroughly unpredictable about this film is the absence of nasty, bitter adults and children you'd have likely found in an American version ... except for the "boss's son" character, who is a cliché, but not one you have to look at for long.
Vitus demonstrates that fantasy can be a personal, human pastime, not just a cartoon or computer-generated effect. Terrific little film.
The casting is outstanding, too, from the two young real-life pianists to another subtly powerful performance by Bruno Ganz. Sony Classics will release it this summer (I just saw it at the Tribeca Film Festival) - go and see it if you missed it. Hard to believe that they apparently had a hard time raising money for this, but now it seems to have all been worth it. It was also the country's official Acadamy Award entry for best foreign language film (though it didn't win).
Got a chance to talk to the director after the screening, such a nice man, too...
Parents, take your young geniuses to see this film, and take its humane message of love, self-recognition and forgiveness to heart.
The Movie has no gunfights, carcrashes or nudescenes. Its a simple, heartwarming story, which takes you away from the fast and hectic daily life into a almost 2-hour-story, which is nothing but good and charming.
A silent movie, but nevertheless a real good one.
In Vitus, the young boy who plays Vitus at age twelve is an actual Piano prodigy. There was no need to fake piano playing- he really is playing in the film. The person who elected to do this was genius, they added and incredible amount of credibility to the entire feature. The movie is excellent and comes to the US soon. A US remake is already being discussed- a testament to the excellence of the film.
Although I enjoyed the movie and was pretty entertained by it, I thought it got a little carried away in the last 40 minutes or so and all credibility went flying out the window. First, the good news: all the characters were interesting and the story had a unique twist to it, one that I doubt anyone could see coming. I won't say what it is, but just don't expect the normal "child prodigy" story.
Many scenes in the final third of the movie, I thought, got too unrealistic. A 12-year-old boy gone for hours - at an expensive condo he bought unknown to his parents, at expensive restaurants, pulling all of kinds of business deals with background checks, climbing up into an airplane with nobody seeing him? - on and on. There are just too many scenes that have huge holes in them like, well, Swiss cheese. In addition, the kid is obnoxious many times and the parents unrealistic. I felt more than a touch of elitism thrown into this story.
I think the oddest part of the film was the mother speaking English about every fifth sentence. What's up with that? Still, I think many people will enjoy this movie because the story, even with the holes, is still entertaining enough to sit through, which is more than you can say for a lot of two-hour films.
Vitus - played at age 6 by Fabrizio Borsani and at age 12 by Teo Gheorghiu - is referred to as a little Mozart by his parents Helen (Julika Jenkins) and Leo (Urs Jucker), and by the family friends who are amazed at Vitus' gift as a pianist. But as is often the case with gifted children, they are overprotected, not allowed to engage in the normal activities of being a kid. Vitus finds consolation in his grandfather (a brilliant Bruno Ganz) whose creative energy includes Vitus in his longing to fly and to build complex machines. While Vitus continues his love for the piano he also takes risks with his beloved grandfather. Vitus' intelligence serves him well in analyzing the complexities of his father's job and his grandfather's role in that position, and it is his genius that leads the family in a direction no one thought possible. And of course with every story of an extraordinary young lad adapting to a puzzling world, there is also a love interest: Isabel at age 12 (Kristina Lykowa) is his fun-loving babysitter and at age 19 (Tamara Scarpellini) is the queen of his inexperienced heart and fill a void in Vitus' life that otherwise would be empty. Fitting all of these subplots together is made magical by Vitus' constant playing of classical music - a feat the young actor is capable of performing on his own! The cast of this film is not only gifted but is also endearing. Bruno Ganz is a brilliant actor and he is matched by both of the young actors who play Vitus. The story is tender but avoids bathos. It simply is an uplifting, inspiring, entertaining film. A Must See! Grady Harp
Vitus, a little swiss genius, starts reading books in kindergarden, drives his schoolteachers crazy with his unbeatable wit and turns out to be a piano prodigy at the age of 5. His mother is very keen on not wasting any time for him becoming a star, but Vitus has different plans and knows how to put them into reality. And how he succeeds in following his own path, becoming a star in the end anyway and manages just by the way to solve the financial problems of his whole family, is really worth seeing.
9 out of 10 for two hours of clever and heartwarming entertainment.
One place Vitus feels at home is with his paternal grandfather, a crusty old man with a meager income, but with a lot of love to offer the boy. Vitus own reward is the interest he takes in his teen-aged baby sitter, but when the parents see in horror the surveying tape they have installed at home, they are horrified for watching their son being just a kid having fun.
When we meet Vitus later on, he decides to rebel by jumping off the balcony of his parents' apartment and survives miraculously. He begins by assuming a new personality that is just the opposite of his old self. Thus, he enrolls in a regular school, where he is bored stiff, but at least, he is surrounded by regular kids.
Vitus father's company is not doing well, and Leo has a chance of losing his job. Vitus, who of course, is just as talented and intelligent as before, devices a plan to rescue his grandfather from almost poverty, as well as his own father.
Fredi Murer, the director of the film, achieves a sure hit with this film that will charm audiences that look for a good and entertaining time in watching an uplifting film. Mr. Murer was lucky in securing the help of Fabrizio Borzani and Teo Gheorgiu, two young piano prodigies that are impressive as they play real music in the film.
The best thing, though, is Bruno Ganz, the great German actor who is on hand to impress us with his own take on the grandfather. Mr. Ganz does an incredible job as the rumpled older man who is totally amazed by the innate intelligence of his grandson. Urs Jucker and Julika Jenkins appear as the ambitious parents who finally come to terms with their amazing son.
"Vitus" is recommended for audiences of all ages. The background music is glorious, especially the last sequence where Vitus plays a concert in front of a live audience with a full orchestra.
Joshua's posh Upper West Side "haute bourgeoisie" or "über-yuppie" life takes a dive when a new baby enters the scene. His college-boy-jovial hedge-fund-trader dad Brad (Sam Rockwell) is videoing the infant, and when Joshua ((Jacob Kogan) plays one of his virtuoso pieces, they just ask him to quiet down. Also present in that first scene are his born-again grandma (Celia Weston) and his gay musical show-biz uncle (Dallas Roberts). The uncle is the kindred spirit in the room.
It's funny: both Joshua and Vitus wear little suits and have tidy mops of hair and seem a bit undersize for their ages. But Joshua is a bad seed who spins out an aura of evil and fear off the screen as time goes on, while Vitus is geeky and a prig (for a while anyway) and has a lust for his baby sitter that's at best nutty, but he's otherwise ultimately sweet. Joshua brings down his family, and Vitus saves his. Vitus becomes a successful entrepreneur, and learns to dress casually.
Joshua is like an incubus. He just stands there, sometimes scaring Brad or his mom Abby (Vera Farmiga) by popping up behind them. His face and voice are without affect. Even when he says "Mommy? Daddy? I love you," it's creepy.
Vitus is distant too, initially anyway. He doesn't fit in at school and insults his teachers. But as a small child he has a down-to-earth babysitter, Isabel (played by Kristina Lykawa, later by Tamara Scarpellini), and they enjoy hanging out together. She gets fired and replaced by his English mother (Julike Jenkins), who has blossomed into a controlling stage mom. But where Joshua only occasionally sees his simpatico uncle, Vitus gets to spend a lot of time with his wonderfully relaxed and entertaining granddad (Bruno Ganz, anything but a Hitler this time) , who makes things and goes on walks with the boy and talks about his dreams of being a pilot way back when.
Bad things start happening in Joshua's household from day one (the film takes us, rather harrowingly, through 70-plus). The baby is fine for less than a week when she begins to cry constantly, which brings Abby back to the shaky state she was in during Joshua's early stages--and then some. Perhaps if they'd found an older nanny for the kids, or just the baby, and paid more attention to Josh, the household would not have come apart. Joshua has some very suspenseful moments. You may think the boy will go for the baby, but that's a red herring. His methods are more devious than that and involve night vision film-making, Egyptian methods of mummification, and a performance of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" that is redesigned as if composed by Bartok. (Like the two boys who play Vitus, Fabrizio Borsani and Teo Gheogiou, the boy who plays Joshua, Jacob Korgan, is a genuine piano prodigy).
'Joshua' has a good, ironic sense of its eastern urban white milieu, and though it may fizzle away a bit at the end, it does make you genuinely uncomfortable. This independent first film by Ratliff uses the conventional sound effects and disintegrating set devices of the horror film in fresh ways. But making Joshua into a monster limits where things can go. Rockwell, Farmiga, and Westson are good insofar as they avoid drifting into caricature. Ratliff previously made a documentary about fundamentalist Christians, and the grandma's attempt to "save" Joshua becomes a realistically creepy element. She gets her reward. This is an indictment of insensitive parents, but its picture of a wunderkind demonizes the type.
'Vitus' is a softer world, but this boy is suffering too. In a way his burly dad Leo (Urs Jucker), who creates hearing aids and becomes CEO of a company, is another version of the squash-playing yuppie represented by Sam Rockwell, but he seems more present. The problem is Vitus doesn't fit in in school and then his mom takes him from his childhood piano teacher, who he says he loves, to a famous lady who declares "a rational mind and a warm heart, those are what make a great pianist." "That's why I want to be a vet," Vitus answers, refusing to play for her or become her student. Eventually he contrives to stage an accident after which he seems to have lost his special talent and his high IQ. He precedes to carry out some exploits with his granddad that lead to the film's conclusion. This could be rather fun for a young viewer, though some American critics have found this charming story "simplistic" or "sappy." It does perhaps leave you a little flat because its feel-good finale is too fanciful. 'Joshua' is a film that's riveting and disturbing: its narrow horror focus makes for a concentrated effect. But it's much more fun to watch ''Vitus, which brings up the same issues--about how it's tough to be exceptional--without demonizing brilliance. Teo Gheorghiu may be a little but nerdy, but he has a sensitive face and delivers his lines in ways that are sprightly and nuanced.
This is one of those films about evolving into the person you are at heart instead of becoming the person others expect you to be, and is what is termed a "heart-warming" film, and for those open to it, indeed it is: no murders, no explosions, no trendy violence. Instead, the story is perfectly paced, full of characters you can care about.Leave your scientific logic at the door and open up to the spell of Vitus; otherwise--why bother? (the kid really can play the piano--it's amazing to see those tiny hands pounding out the classics with sensitivity and power!)
I typically make allowances for low budget films like this. I don't expect them to meet Hollywood block buster standards. I had been looking at this film in the video store for about a year, and while I was draw to it, I couldn't quite pull the trigger because what I was getting was not clear. Eventually I found the video in a bargain bin at the local store and I bought it. I was not disappointed.
Like I said, I make some allowances for low budget films, but this story and the actors held together exceptionally well from beginning to end. A very enjoyable and engaging story. Well crafted and well told.
I was very pleased with this film, and rate it very highly. A very well told and heart warming story; beautifully crafted.
Vitus is the unsung hero of musical films. He is brought up to constantly improve upon his talent as a piano player until one day, when he decides on his own to take the piano at his own pace. His grandfather proves to be a wonderful source of inspiration and guides Vitus when it comes to understanding the ways of the world.
This last comment brings to mind two boys on bicycles -- see the film and you'll understand.
One gets the sense that everyone involved with the creation of this film must have had an extraordinarily fine time working on it -- it's a work of art that's so overfilled with joy that it splashes off the screen! Although I am personally acquainted with no one involved in the making of this film, I am very, very proud of each and every one of them and would like to thank them for making my life better - if only for a few, brief moments!
Most people are captivated by genius no matter what the area of expertise, and genius in a young person is particularly fascinating. It seems that the main areas open to childhood prodigies are chess, music, and mathematics and it is not uncommon for a genius in one of these areas to have talents in the others. If you have ever attempted to excel in any area and encounter a person who is so above and beyond what is normally considered excellence, then your appreciation for such a person is heightened. Teo Gheorhiu commands such esteem. By far the high points of the movie for me were in seeing him play and marveling at his ability.
Vitus faces a decision that I assume most prodigies face, and that is how much of their lives should be devoted to developing their gift. To rise to the top, the devotion required would be pretty much all-consuming, or at least it would set them apart from a more normal childhood. Vitus faces such a decision, a decision accentuated by the pressures of his parents to capitalize on his gift and the mockery of his fellow students, since he excels in the classroom as well. It seems that the only person who simply wants Vitus to find his own way is his grandfather (Bruno Ganz in a fine performance), and Vitus establishes a close bond with him.
The internal conflict Vitus faces between conforming and pursuing his talent is set up nicely. In order to fit in, Vitus fakes a diminution of ability after an attempt to put on wings and jump from the second story of his house results in a concussion. It was not clear to me if Vitus purposely staged this event so that he could subsequently fake normalcy, or if he just recognized the possibilities the accident afforded him. But no matter how hard Vitus tries to be an average kid, like buying popular music CDs, his interest in classical music cannot be suppressed and he buys a CD of Bach's Goldberg Variations played by Alexey Botvinov that excites him to try his own playing on his grandfather's piano. Only his grandfather knows that Vitus' talent is still there and Vitus is faking its lack.
This is a great setup for a rich final payoff that is totally squandered in the final third where Vitus starts playing the stock market in order to save his father's job. Due to insider information he makes millions and winds up buying a NASA-sized flight simulator for his aviation loving grandfather. When I saw that thing in Vitus' grandfather's shop, I knew the movie had taken a regrettable wrong turn into fantasy land. For one thing Vitus would have been slapped with an insider trading lawsuit fairly quickly. As he continued to make more millions and bought out his dad's old company, I lost respect for this movie.
In addition to being a piano prodigy, Georghiu is a good actor with a winning personality. Based on the brief interview with him on the DVD extras it would appear that Georghiu has not been tortured by life decision conflicts. He says he wants to play a concert in the Royal Albert Hall by the time he is twenty and also remarks that in order to make a lot of money you have to be really good. I hope he achieves both of those goals.
For a movie that treats the same themes (but chess instead of pianism) see "Searching for Bobby Fischer." That film stays grounded, perhaps because it is based on a true story.