Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Steph Waller believes she is the reincarnation of Mozart. She gives talks "in character" (and costume) to schoolkids about him, along with her partner Lynette Erwin, who claims to be the reincarnation of the first singer to play the role of Susanna (and alleged tryster with the composer) Anna Storace. Personally I think if I'd been subjected to this as a child I may have been too traumatised ever to listen to Mozart again, but maybe that's just me.

David Cope, meanwhile, has written a program that enables a computer to "compose" like Mozart. He persuades Steven Isserlis to play through a cello concerto written by this program. Isserlis confesses to developing a certain fondness for the work, despite it being "really bad". That's not just a professional opinion, by the way - my companion has no musical training at all, and she managed to recognise its awfulness, a jumble of classical cliches that fitted together in the way a random selection of clothes bought from charity shops might.

These are just some of the characters we encounter in the documentary film, Mozartballs, which was on BBC4 the other night, named after the sickly sweet chocolate balls known as "Mozartkugeln" that act as the most prominent evidence that there is nothing on this earth so tacky that the Viennese won't slap a picture of Mozart on it and sell you.

It's quite an entertaining film, and not simply in a "look at the nutters!" way. To an English mindset the title brings connotations of Private Eye, but this is an American film, and hence lacking the acid that might imply. Rather, it's an affectionate portrait of some eccentric people who've made Mozart the focus of their obsession. Whether this says something about the continuing power Mozart's myth holds over us or the desperate desire of us all to bask in associated glory I don't know, but rather than mocking the film's subjects I find myself warming to them. We live in such a drab, conformist world in so many ways. Who can blame someone for wanting to be Mozart?

1 comment:

Steph said...

Thank you for this kind review. The film is actually Canadian, made by Toronto's Academy Awardward-winning Rhombus Media. It was directed by Larry Weinstein and written by Thomas Wallner.

Steph Waller