‘He’s deaf, of course . . .’ explains a helpful old woman when Anna Holz (Diane Kruger) comes knocking on the door of Ludwig van Beethoven’s house. It’s an awkward introduction followed by the great composer’s heartfelt explanation of how he can compose and enjoy music despite his lack of hearing: ‘I feel the vibrations.’
Riddled with such clichés dressed as insights, Agnieszka Europa Europa Holland’s opus concentrates on humble copyist Anna (Kruger) and how she ingratiates herself into the gruff old bully’s household and inspires him to greatness. The result is yet another bland Euro confection doomed by the same epic miscasting that made Milos Forman’s lush but ludicrous Goya’s Ghosts hit an equally bum note. Convincing as intense painter Jackson Pollock, Ed Harris struggles to bring any gravitas to ‘Van The Man’, handicapped with the only Brooklyn accent in 1824 Vienna and a wig that looks like a dead badger.
Kruger fares no better, offering the kind of blank line readings and bored-stewardess expressions that Julia Ormond once made her trademark. A touch of Ken Russell’s outrageous flair (à la The Music Lovers, Savage Messiah, Mahler or even Lisztomania) would have livened up the stiffs on show here, although it’s always nice to hear a bit of Beethoven, particularly the glorious Ninth which is given a full ten-minute rendition in what is the film’s best sequence.
Selected release from Fri 17 Aug.