Interlude In Prague, 2017.
Directed by John Stephenson.
Starring James Purefoy, Aneurin Barnard, Samantha Banks, Morfydd Clark, Adrian Edmondson, and Dervla Kirwan.
Celebrated 18th century composer Mozart is brought to Prague by powerful Baron Saloka and, while there, starts to compose a new opera. Despite being married, he also falls in love with young soprano Zuzanna Lubtak, but Saloka has his own plans for her – to make her his wife. And, when he finds out that she and Mozart are lovers, he’s determined to put a stop to it.
Mention Mozart in the movies and there’s only one that comes to mind: Milos Forman’s brilliant Amadeus (1984). So it takes a brave – or foolhardy – director to take on the subject again as it’s almost inevitable that the shadow of its illustrious predecessor will hang over it like a dark cloud. Which is exactly what happens to Interlude In Prague. And it never manages to shake it off.
That isn’t the film’s only shortcoming. Let’s face it, you know there’s a problem when your abiding memory of a movie is of a bemused Ade Edmondson peering out from underneath an 18th century wig. Especially when what you’ve been watching isn’t meant to be a comedy.
Apparently based on true events – the dates and locations are real, but the plot is fictitious, so make of that what you will – the action takes place during a brief period in the composer’s life when one of his several visits to Prague was sponsored by Baron Saloka (James Purefoy). Mozart (Aneurin Barnard) starts work on a new opera and becomes increasingly attracted to a young soprano in the cast, Zuzanna (Morfydd Clark), who is due to be betrothed to the Baron. A cruel, sexual predator, he refuses to let anything stand in his way when it comes to his latest conquest and sets about stopping the affair. But he can never foresee the tragic outcome which affects just about everybody.
The film paints a very different portrait from the giggling, crass and lecherous Mozart of Amadeus. He’s still something of a flirt with the ladies, and doesn’t think twice about having an affair, even though he’s left his wife and child at home, but he’s nowhere near as obnoxious as his predecessor. And Aneurin Bernard brings just enough intensity to the role to make him convincing. That said, the showpiece role belongs to James Purefoy, who inhabits the loathesome baron with more than a little relish, yet never steps over the line into pantomime.
The fact that the two actors give performances at this level says something for them because they have to work with a script that, for the most part, is remarkably flat and makes life unduly hard for the rest of the cast. Edmondson, for instance, is simply mis-cast as Zuzanna’s father and would have been in any other role. He’s just not a straight actor and you keep expecting him to whip off that wig to reveal those infamous stars embedded in his forehead.
That Mozart’s own music is a plus point goes without saying, although too much time is spent dwelling on the finished production of his opera. We only need a couple of scenes to get the message but, no, we’re given at least a half dozen, all of which produce a sense of “here we go again.” The film’s real strength is in its visuals – gorgeous costumes, magnificent interiors and lighting that produces a colour palette occasionally verging on the sepia.
Interlude In Prague is heavy going all round and certainly not the piece of juicy scandal the poster would have you believe. Which makes it a very long interlude – and a less than diverting one.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★/ Movie: ★ ★