A piano prodigy becomes a fly-away wunderkind in this German import

Vitus

on June 29, 2007 by John P. McCarthy
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Flying is a potent metaphor and probably qualifies as a Jungian archetype. Even if Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung didn't think it was part of our collective unconscious, his rival Sigmund Freud acknowledged its role in dreams. And now Swiss filmmaker Fredi Murer puts it front and center in a charming coming-of-age drama featuring a protagonist who becomes a modern-day anti-Icarus.

In the opening scene, musical prodigy Vitus (Teo Gheorghiu) steals a small plane from a sleepy airport and takes off into the Alpine sky. The urge to fly away can symbolize many psychological conditions and has practical utility as a means of extricating oneself from a bad situation or escaping to greener pastures. That malleability also pertains to the story Murer tells. He sees it as a paean to the “inspiring and healing power of music,” a goal open to overly familiar and cozy interpretations.

Vitus is twelve when he commandeers the aircraft, and we then flash back to him as a precocious six-year-old destined to become a preteen standard-bearer for Apollonian virtues. Vitus' father (Urs Jucker) is an engineer and inventor who goes along as his English mother (Lulika Jenkins) pushes the cheeky wunderkind to become a world-class pianist. His eccentric paternal grandfather (Bruno Ganz) makes boomerangs, picks wildflowers and teaches Vitus to fly both literally, as in fly an airplane, and figuratively, as in letting Vitus be Vitus.

The kid rebels by sabotaging his parents' attempt to mold him into a virtuoso. He just wants to be normal and goes to great lengths to feel what that's like. He stops playing the piano, dumbs himself down and falls in love with his babysitter. Of course, special always trumps normal in the movies. Although not an extraordinary film, Vitus celebrates classical artistic values with rational humaneness. It fits the stereotype of a Swiss-made timepiece, but in a good way. Distributor: Sony Classics
Cast: Teo Gheorghiu, Julika Jenkins, Urs Jucker and Bruno Ganz
Director: Fredi M. Murer
Screenwriters: Peter Luisi, Fredi M. Murer and Lukas B. Suter
Producers: Christian Davi, Christo Neracher and Fredi M. Murer
Genre: Drama; German-language, subtitlted
Rating: PG for mild thematic elements and language
Running time: 123 min.
Release date: June 29, 2007 ltd
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