|The passion of Gustav Mahlerís compositions may be present on the soundtrack of Bride of the Wind, but the heart and soul of this film beat far too softly to really make the viewer stand up and take notice of the subject. While fans of the composer and the people who surrounded him might be interested in the story of Alma Mahler, the excitement and exhilaration of the era and its people are lost in a poorly written script that gives its actors no chance to make their characters come to life. The film itself is certainly a beautiful one, as are the actors and their costumes, but what the characters have to say is never gripping enough to hold oneís interest for too long.|
The movie plays more like a staid documentary on the subject rather than a vivid feature film. As one of the most well known feminists of her era (whether she chose to be consciously or not), Alma Mahlerís life was certainly the type of existence that lends itself easily to feature film adaptation. With a series of famous husbands (composer Gustav Mahler included) and a high profile affair with artist "Oskar Kokoschka," Alma became a symbol for the way turn of the century women were gaining freedom from their corseted lives. She seems to have been born a century too early as her opinions and deeds certainly did not line up with those of the traditional German woman of the time.
So knowing that her story is a fascinating one makes the weak portrayal of it on the screen that much more frustrating, because the subject has never been brought to film before. One of the most ironic things about the film is that although the screenplay could have used some serious beefing up (it is the weakest element of the film), the actors are all quite good in their roles and if one is able let go oneís prejudices about the dialogue, the performances can carry oneís attention to the end of the film. And there are other things to concentrate on as well, like the soundtrack, the cinematography, and the costumes.
In point of fact, this film contains quite a few well-done elements and it is just the storyís execution which prohibits the film from becoming a masterpiece. Germany (and the nearby German-speaking countries) are all beautifully photographed by cinematographer Peter James, as he gives the audience plenty of gorgeous mountain vistas and crowded German streets to gaze upon throughout the film. And production designer Herbert Pinter was particularly adept as his task as well, as the interiors for all of the locations are all intricately detailed with their period furniture, rugs, and antiques.
And since the cast is a rather beautiful element as well, viewers will never lack for something interesting to look at in this film. It is just what comes out of those actors mouths that mar the experience. Even the expert performance of Vincent Perez as painter Oskar Kokoschka cannot make up for the lack of enthusiasm and zeal in the dialogue. As much of the film deals with marriage, love, and torrid affairs, one would think that passionate dialogue would be a requirement for the story. But the dialogue and pacing of the film are too calm for their own good.
The intriguing performances of Sarah Wynter as Alma Mahler and Jonathan Pryce as Gustav Mahler are made stale with the absence of a few good shouting matches between them. Surely a couple who underwent adultery and separations during their marriage would have been prone to arguments from time to time. But the decibel strength of the voices in this film barely exceeds that of a normal speaking voice. Even during a scene where Mahler confronts his wife about her marital deception, his tone surprisingly calm. If anything, the dialogue needed a few good curse words.
On a final note, since the filmís characters are based on people who spoke in German and lived in German speaking countries, hearing the dialogue spoken in English might annoy some audience members. Though the fact that all the actors speak in German accents (whether they are actually German or not) should pacify most viewers, since the actorsí speech patterns are not too different in their accents.
But even though the accents were done well, the cinematography was magnificently filmed, and the music was faithfully performed, the filmís overall ability to affect an audience emotionally is severely hindered by the lack of zeal from the characters. Good performances or not, Bride of the Wind sits calmly in the middle of a light breeze, when it should be shouting over the noise of a hurricane.
Review by Kelsey Wyatt.