The art of escape
by Françoise Deriaz
- Can we cut the wings of a boy who only wants to fly? Fredi M. creates a starry-eyed world to depict a young piano virtuoso up against the all-consuming ambition of adults
With its incomparable freedom and imagination, childhood is a common theme in all fictions by Fredi M. Murer. In Alpine Fire (Höhenfeuer), a successful film in Switzerland in 1985, the violence of the forbidden engulfs two innocent teenagers. In Vollmond (1998), a group of boys flee their oppressive and strict parents. With Vitus [+see also:
interview: Christian Davi
interview: Fredi M. Murer
film profile], Fredi M. Murer depicts the secret world of a gifted child destined for a career as an international pianist and smothered by overly attentive parents who are in wonder at their child’s gifts at the tender age of six (Fabrizio Borsani) and his genius at twelve (Teo Gheorghiu).
The child’s grandfather, played superbly by Bruno Ganz, is a character where the burden of maternal and paternal hopes can be placed, the forgotton practice sessions. In the bric-a-brac of his old little house, Vitus can finally do what he really wants – play in the garden! Like Icarus, the prisoner of the labyrinth of keys and notes also dreams of doing things other than music.
Skilfully, Fredi M. Murer does not portray Vitus’ parents as vampires that suck to excess the artistic vein of their son. Instead, he instils their poisonous careerist love drop by drop. But when the mother decides to leave her job as a translator to take control of her son’s career, his reticence and refusal to follow the path traced for him insidiously removes the masks – until the day where Vitus takes the plunge with paper wings.
In a story spiced with episodes that categorize Vitus as a fable and fantasy, Fredi M. Murer gives substance to his thoughts on the art of childhood (a lucky star story!), artstic freedom (not necessarily natural), but also on the very serious stock market speculation that rules the world (a dangerous child’s game). The filmmaker particularly excels in depicting conniving love and fusionnel uniting Vitus and his grandfather. This old man, aware of how time shapes individuals, transmits to his grandson such values as fantasy, simplicity, know-how – everything that the boy’s parents, obsessed by their mission of education and the fabulous destiny that awaits Vitus, have either forbidden or forgotton.
While the masterpieces by Fredi M. Murer, Alpine Fire, and Vollmond have just been released on DVD, European audiences will have to wait until January before they can discover the marvellous Vitus.