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Huzzah for Vitus!
Spuzzlightyear8 November 2006
Sure this is a movie that everyone loves to hate. A foreign movie about a boy who is gifted on the piano. His parents notice this and immediately set about to make sure the boy is properly educated and makes sure he plays the piano. The boy just wants, you know, to be a boy. No one seems to understand except his grandfather. So you know, they have a SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP. Sure, this is a predictable and syrupy feel-good fluff, but damned if I didn't enjoy it. I LOVED this movie. This is the type of movie that you could say the sum is equal to it's parts, as all the cast and the script combine together to make this as enjoyable as possible. A special nod goes out to the 3 kids playing Vitus, who are all quite great, and to Bruno Ganz who is quite marvelous here too. Again, this wont make any awards list, or be even nominated for anything (it's just a little TOO predictable), but this sure would make audiences cheer.
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Childhood fantasy
Tom (satnitcboy)27 April 2007
Saw a screening tonight at Tribeca Film Festival - good news for American Audiences: Sony Classics will be distributing Vitus here beginning June 07.

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.
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Fabulous movie I would see again
mayer0114 January 2007
I saw this movie at the Palm Springs Film Festival and absolutely loved it. I didn't want it to end. It just got better and better. I almost didn't go to see it because there were so many other choices. I thought it was just going to be about a child prodigy, but it was about so much more. There were many stories besides the many one, and every one of them was unique and kept my interest. Screenwriters could learn a lot by analyzing the elements that composed this film and then writing more good ones like this. The acting was superb. I thought that the young piano player stole the show. He was perfectly cast. However, the real life piano player who played the character was also excellent in his role. It was so nice to have a complex plot without being in the middle of a story with family members screaming at each other. They may have had different plans for the piano player's life, but at heart they all loved each other.
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Fredy Murer's latest is excellent.
wag6730 April 2007
What a great movie to come out of Switzerland, though for those who have followed Fredy Murer's career this shouldn't come as much of a surprise. His humanity truly transcends geographical and language boundaries and what he has to tell us about growing up, and raising children, in a funny, heartwarming but never condescending story that sounds true every step of the way, is simply extraordinary.

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...
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A Fable Played by Real People
merlin-1056 May 2007
We just saw Vitus at the San Francisco International Film Festival, with an audience that packed in the theatre and gave the director a round of applause at the end. In the context of Fredi Murer's career, this film address themes that he explored in earlier works such as Alpine Fire and Full Moon, but here with a lighter, less moralistic tone. Murer clearly has a great rapport with children and brings out a credible performance from the nonprofessional actor (but real-life musical virtuoso) Teo Gheorghiu -- especially considering that so much of the film rests on this young pianist's shoulders. Bruno Ganz, whom English-speaking audiences rarely get to hear performing in his own Zurich dialect, unsentimentally embodies the traditional Swiss values that are disappearing under a wave of American-style materialism and yuppie anxiety.

Parents, take your young geniuses to see this film, and take its humane message of love, self-recognition and forgiveness to heart.
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very well played
muri7315 February 2006
The Story about a boy-genius who wants nothing, than being a normal boy, is a well played and charmful story. The Boy is played by a real-life-boy-genius who plays the piano amazingly. Grandpa is the same actor as "Hitler" in "Der Untergang" and shows herewith his incredible talent for various roles.

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.
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Piano Playing
taniguchisgirl23 May 2007
Vitus portrays a kid who struggles to choose between his parents dreams and his own. Anyone with over ambitious parents can relate! The acting is incredible. Seeing the grandfather in the role was excellent- I first saw him as Hitler in the German film Untergang (Downfall) about Hitler's last days. He does a marvelous job in both films. Anyone interested in foreign film should see it- it's stirred up a bit of chaos for directly portraying Hitler and evoking sympathy for him.

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.
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Swiss Cheese, But Entertaining Enough
ccthemovieman-128 July 2008
Warning: Spoilers
How many movies have you watched that were made in Switzerland? Well, this one was and seems to be favorably received. The user comments here are almost all filled with plaudits for the film. I agree, with a few reservations.

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.
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Giving Back the Gift: The World of the Prodigy
gradyharp29 November 2007
VITUS is a film from Switzerland that has garnered many accolades and nearly won an Oscar. And yes, it is that good! Written by Fredi M. Murer, Peter Luisi, and Lukas B. Suter and directed by Murer, VITUS explores the life of a child genius, a lad who from the age of five is obviously gifted in that he can play Bach et al after only a few months lessons and is able to read books and understand concepts that make his stance in a regular kindergarten class untenable. But the film is less about the gifts of a child prodigy than it is a story of how a genius child longs for a normal childhood. It is in the telling of the story that the audience is privileged to discover the joys and trials in a child's view of being extraordinary.

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
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Lovely Movie
hareck16 February 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Wonderful movie with a great storyline and good actors.

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.
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And so when do we get it here?
seamallowance22 January 2007
I just saw this on a plane (and overseas flight) and I watched it twice, as it was so good. The acting was superb, the script very credible. This is perfect art-house cinema or Netflix material. So when do we get it here? Even just on video? (Is this where I whine that pleasant little gems like this go unnoticed by dumb Americans?) Besides, how many Swiss films will you ever see in your entire life? BTW, the piano playing fooled me entirely. I kept looking and trying to figure out how it was done (hence, the dumb American comment). It will be very easy for anyone who is smarter than the average bear to identify with this story.
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Amazing Journey into Genius
drmargaret14 September 2007
I loved that this child was not only musically gifted, which I expected from the descriptors of the movie. He was mathematically a genius as well. But, the most amazing part was his understanding of psychology -- the ability to solve severe financial problems for his grandfather, the ability to manipulate everyone in his world into thinking he was normal for several years. The movie is one of the best I have seen in, literally, decades. And, then, there is the piano performance of a real musical savant. So, this is the story -- but the ability of the script and the director to move me into childhood, to remember what some of the issues of autonomy are, to see a family who loves and cares for their child, but also faces issues of financial pressures and job loss. This is a movie we can all relate to on many levels. What a great show!! I hope it becomes available on DVD -- I'll buy about 10 to give away. Dr. Margaret
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Swiss feel good movie
noahbi-121 February 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Vitus is the story of the "wunderkind" Vitus, a very talented boy who defends himself against the pressure of his parents to become a famous piano player. The movie is very moving and highly entertaining. Bruno Ganz finally manages to let you forget his turn as Hitler in his role here as the understanding grandfather of Vitus. The weakness of the movie are some of the child actors, who can not convince all the time. Theo Gheorghiu is excellent, though, and it is fun to support his character Vitus, once you have found out that he is fooling everyone. You will see things in this movie that you might have dreamed about as a child - such as showing the grown ups that you are smarter than they are and flying an airplane.
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St Vitus dance
jotix1006 August 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Many ambitious parents that detect talent in their children, tend to subject them to lives that rob the kids of a childhood. That seems to be the case with Leo and Helen Von Holzen, the parents of the gifted Vitus. The boy shows, at an early stage, his aptitude for the piano. In making Vitus study and prepare for a career in music, the elder Von Holzens sacrifice his normal life as they make the young child into studying constantly in order to fulfill their own expectations for the child.

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.
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Varieties of Wunderkinder: George Ratliff's Joshua (2007) and Fredi M. Murer's Vitus
Chris Knipp15 July 2007
These two current movies both have boy protagonists (Joshua is eleven and a half and Vitus is ultimately twelve) who happen to be both intellectually brilliant and piano prodigies. 'Joshua,' a psychological thriller with horror overtones, is scary and depressing. 'Vitus' is an upbeat fairy tale children could watch, if they can read subtitles: dialogue is mostly in Swiss German and Hoch Deutsch (with a little English). Neither of these films is quite an unmitigated success, but both have interesting things to say about the plight of being super-smart and prematurely accomplished. Maybe Joshua just wants to be loved; Vitus says he just wants to be a normal boy; but fortunately, there's more to it than that in both cases. Together these are two poles of attitudes toward such young people.

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.
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Simply Fantastic!
Bayo Omole24 October 2009
Just saw this movie tonight at the European Movie Week. While I am not a movie freak like my darling wife, it is simply the best movie I have seen in perhaps 10 years! Come on! I can't believe I am actually online looking for how to buy this movie. I have NEVER been bothered before to even look at the cast in a movie, not to talk of looking a movie up online. With zero violence or nudity, I find the simple manner of presentation of the plot highly intellectual. I hope to get it on DVD and perhaps, distribute. It has definitely changed my perception of European movies. My son is musically talented and this movie has positively impacted on my thinking about raising him.
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Innocent Intelligence Trumps Outside Expectations: A Sweet Film at Heart
museumofdave11 March 2013
This is a wonderful little gem from Switzerland about a piano wunderkind, a kid who is smarter and more intuitive than almost anyone around him--except his grandfather (Bruno Ganz, in a wonderfully nuanced performance). Yes, the film is perhaps overly sentimental, and yes, it's occasionally a wee bit improbable (if not impossible)--but the performances from the entire cast are first rate.

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!)
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Far Exceeded my Expectations
Steve B19 March 2012
You should have the plot by now, a child piano prodigy who just wants to be a kid.

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.
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Vitus: a musical prodigy and so much more!
QoS00714 July 2008
Being a musician myself, I hold this movie in such high regard. Music is about what you make of it, not what others want you to make out of it. Vitus is a wonderful film that is linear, magical, and groundbreaking in the musical genre. The film achieves near perfection with a fantastic score and wonderful cinematography. The direction of the Swiss landscape is visually stunning and gorgeous, which make the film hard to look away from. The themes in Vitus such as realism, determination, youth, and wonderment launch the replay value off the charts and make it the perfect feel-good movie. Adding to it's brilliance is the script, which is one of the finest I have ever witnessed. Ultimately, Vitus possesses a quality that most American music films lack which make it a film worth owning, rather than simply renting or borrowing.

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.
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Do not MISS this film!
ken-58325 February 2008
This is a thoroughly and completely delicious film! I really cannot think of anything else to say about it, but the rules require ten lines of text. One could speak about the flawless decor, the perfection of the costuming, the grace of the cinematography, the charm of the screenplay, the specificity and finesse of the acting, or the flawless interplay of the musical score with the visual elements.

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!
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All in all a good watch
Warning: Spoilers
"Vitus" is a 2006 Swiss film and almost 10 years ago that runs for almost 2 hours and won Best Film at the Swiss Film awards that year. It came pretty close to an Academy Award nomination in the foreign language category. It was Switzerland's submission and made the January shortlist. Basically, it is about a child prodigy, who has a gigantic IOQ, keeps provoking his teachers, is an incredibly talented stock market broker and, most of all, a pianist. This film deals competently with the issues of being just a child who wants a life like all children in the face of his great prospects. The actors were all very solid in here, some even really good, such as Bruno Ganz who you may know from "Downfall". Here he plays a kind grandfather who helps getting his son on the right path when the boy's parents are overwhelmed with their own problems and do not know what to do with their son anymore. The actress who played the mother was okay too. The father was fairly forgettable. But the worst was probably the boy, which is quite a shame as he was the absolute lead character just like the title suggests. Many children's films these days do not require great performances from the younger actors as they are not written in a way where they have to portray great emotion or range. "Vitus" is an exception here. The title character was actually written in a way where only a pretty talented child actor can make it truly work and Teo Gheorgiou was not the right choice. With another, a better casting choice this could have been a truly great piece of filmmaking. Still Fredi M. Murer did a decent job all in all. There are moments when the whole child prodigy plot is way over the top, for example when the boy makes millions within hours or starts running his own company, but if we are not too strict on these, it's a very solid watch in my opinion. Taking everything into account, I recommend "Vitus". Oh and another quick note. There are many Swiss German films out there which are impossible to understand also for German native speakers, because the accent is too thick, but this is not one of them. If you speak German, you will understand everything.
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There is No Such Thing As Normal in This World!
Syl10 August 2014
Virus is a Swiss boy who is a piano prodigy and genius. All Vitus wants is to be normal. His parents have high expectations when they learn of their son's genius. His parents put enormous pressures on him to succeed as a piano prodigy and a genius student attending college at 12 years old. When an accident happens, Vitus is no longer a genius but an average healthy normal 12year old boy who enjoys spending time with his grandfather. That's what we're supposed to think but Vitus wants to be like other 12 year olds. Vitus is a rare film where everybody can relate to these characters especially the family dynamics. I don't know where the setting in Switzerland whether Geneva, Zurich, or Bern. This is probably my first Swiss film. I don't recall any others.
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Lovely Vitus
kikoshaus29 September 2011
Perhaps you heard about geniuses before and imagined the typical stereotype of a "genius", like probably Einstein, Newton or some smart dude of our times. But whatever you might have had in mind, Vitus will make you think how cool is to be in charge of your intelligence and skills. No matter what your age is, no matter how super smart you are, you still can be cool without losing your touch. I love Vitus and Bruno Ganz makes also a terrific role and a couple of key scenes with him are just amazing. I specially like the fact about this movie that once you realize you are different and you try to hide it, still your own scent will come up sudden, unexpectedly. That makes you unique and should encourage you to direct what you want to achieve in life taking advantage of your own resources. Vitus shows you it's fine to have no clue about what to do. The question is, do you really don't know what to do? Not sure how many Vitus are in the world anyways but definitely this movie is one of my favorites to be re-watched.
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Give it a little while to get going
rmforde3 November 2009
An entertaining 'sleeper'. Unaffected child actors, talented cast, and a good story add up to a diverting and under-recognized film. There was not one lame performance - each added a dimension without cluttering up the scene. Give it a little while to get going - it does spend some time to lay the ground work, but I don't really see a way to short cut it without losing the genuine and unassuming quality the director manages to preserve throughout the events that unfold. No sentimental drivel to wilt audience interest either. It has subtitles for those who do not speak what I believe was Swiss German, but they were not annoying. I'm looking forward to watching it again.
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Great premise turns sappy
bandw16 August 2009
Warning: Spoilers
*Spoilers* This is the (fictional) account of Vitus von Holzen, a piano prodigy. In the first third of the movie Vitus is six years old and in the rest he is twelve. The main stroke of brilliance this film has to offer is in the casting of two piano prodigies to play Vitus. Teo Georghiu plays Vitus at age twelve, he was about twelve at the time of the filming and is stunningly talented.

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.
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