Vitus (2006)

Country: Switzerland

How many times have you looked at yourself and thought ‘gosh, I wish I’d been smarter in my childhood’? Well apparently that’s not a problem for the charming child prodigy in Vitus. The namesake of the film shuffles through encyclopaedias as a toddler, and is a piano prodigy by age 5. Not only that, he has an unbelievably high IQ of 180 by age 12. Too hard to swallow that? That’s only a part of the story.

Vitus, played by real piano prodigy Teo Gheorghiu is definitely not your normal 12-year-old. He’s too smart for his classmates and also his teachers, which makes him feel less connected to those around him. His parents have envisioned a famous piano-playing life for him, but Vitus has many other plans. Under the wing of his loving grandfather, with whom he feels most comfortable, Vitus launches an invisible rebellion that is going to changes the lives of those around him.

What this ‘invisible rebellion’ is is worth looking out for.

The film has had its share of success, winning the Audience Choice Award for Best Feature at the Chicago Film Festival as well as a Best Film accolade from The Swiss Film Prize. It was also Switzerland’s entry into the Oscars that year. In spite of that, it is not a film most people outside Switzerland would have heard of. Unfortunately so, as the film has its share of special moments, as well as a brilliant soundtrack (one that consists of classical music composed by maestros such as Bach, Mozart, and many others). What makes the soundtrack even more special is that the film is about a piano prodigy and Teo Gheorghiu is one. He plays all the pieces you see him playing in the film. There’s no pretension here.

One memorable scene which uses seemingly simple (but clever) sound editing at its best is where Vitus and another boy are cycling in circles and there is the intelligent cutting of classical music over pop music and vice-versa.

Another memorable (and amusing) scene is where Vitus takes his former babysitter (who is a few years older than he is) to a Cambodian restaurant called ‘Angkor’. He reveals that he really likes her and tells her that they would be a perfect couple because women live longer than men and if he married her, they would both die around the same time.

Fredi M. Murer’s direction is commendable and the story flows in a satisfying manner. The acting is consistently good and Teo Gheorghiu, his on-screen parents Julika Jenkins and Urs Jucker, and his grandfather (on celluloid) Bruno Ganz seem like a real family.

This is a charming family film. Do not expect thrilling twists and turns with heaps and heaps of melodrama. And this isn’t a romance film either in case you’re wondering.

FINAL VERDICT: Watch it if you want to see a film that is engaging and satisfying and really holds up well because of its lead actors. Also watch it for the plot.

Avoid it if you’re done with films about child prodigies and their families. Also avoid it if you’re not a huge fan of classical music (because there’s lots of it here).

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