The gorgeous Martina Gedeck stars as Clara Schumann in the vaguely biographical film Clara, which screened as part of the 2009 festival of German films. The film is rather odd in that it is based on the supposed love triangle between Clara, her husband Robert Schumann and the young Johannes Brahms in the nineteenth century, yet completely fails to meet many basic aspects of a historical costume drama.
There are several scenes, for example, where Gedeck is clearly wearing a modern bra under her costumes – a garment that had not yet been invented. Couldn’t the costume designers afford corsets? It’s the romantic era portrayed in the style of amateur dressups, where the foundations have been literally forgotten.
The characters’ manners seem completely modern – they file into a theatre any which way, the men sitting before the women. The only historical attitude that seems to be depicted with any authenticity is the orchestra’s misogyny when Clara conducts them.
Based on contemporary depictions, Gedeck is the only actor with a passing resemblance to her character. The casting of the male leads is less appropriate.
Pascal Greggory as Robert Schumann (above) looks as stiff and dead as Max Schreck in Nosferatu, complete with fingers that bend in strange ways.
Malik Zidi as Johannes Brahms (above) is good, playing him like a raffish ‘allo darlin’ playboy bachelor lad about town (with a passing resemblance to Jenson Button) who charms everyone in sight yet seems to have the emotional maturity not to attempt to seduce Clara despite evident opportunity and mutual attraction.
Apart from Gedeck’s dark sensuality, this film is a disappointment. The script is clumsy and events and themes are hinted at but not adequately explained, from Schumann’s mental illness, to their personal conflicts and the mysterious connection between Clara and Johannes. The dubbing of the voices of the male leads is bizarre.
The film seems to have been made on such a modest budget that significant shortcomings are evident. I’ll see anything with Gedeck in it, and this is clearly the price for my devotion. The music is great, though I know little about it, and Gedeck looks passionate playing it.