A fictionalised story from the life of Wolfgang Mozart, this lavishly produced period drama is enjoyable for its witty performances and sexy intrigue. It's never as sharp as the screenwriters clearly intended it to be, and its tone veers wildly in operatic fashion from cute comedy to lusty romance to very dark violence. But the actors are terrific, and the film catches a clever sense of both the history and the music.
It opens in 1786, as Prague's opera patron Baron Saloka (James Purefoy) begrudgingly agrees to provide the funds to bring Mozart (Aneurin Barnard) to town to conduct the final performance of The Marriage of Figaro. A rampant womaniser who doesn't want competition from the composer, Saloka currently has his eyes on virginal soprano Zuzanna (Morfydd Clark), who has just joined the cast. And he watches in a jealous rage as the married Mozart flirts shamelessly with her, egged on by his friend, the star diva Josefa (Samantha Barks). In response, Saloka arranges a marriage with Zuzanna's parents (Adrian Edmondson and Dervla Kerwin), who are so taken with the baron's wealth and social standing that they ignore the persistent rumours about his violent abuse of every woman he knows.
There's nothing remotely subtle about this film. Saloka's servants visibly quake in his presence, while every woman in town bats her eyelashes at the hot, charismatic Mozart. The dialogue shifts clunkily from witty banter to gloomy foreboding as the plot turns increasingly creepy and menacing. And Saloka's manipulative nastiness can't help but bring to mind Salieri in Milos Forman's 1984 masterpiece Amadeus. This film of course pales in comparison, although it's silly enough to keep us entertained. This is largely due to Barnard's fizzy, energetic performance, which is nicely balanced by the lively charms of both Barks and Clark, whose scenes with Barnard overflow with lusty glee. By contrast, Purefoy is a snarling villain who hates everyone and everything.
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