Theatrical Review: Fredi M. Murer
's Vitus may not be a fairy tale, as Murer himself is so quick to point out, but it certainly has the feel of childhood fantasy. Unlike most films about childhood told through the fantasy lens, Vitus orchestrates a fantasy based in realism that echoes child heroes as varied as Bastian Bux (The Neverending Story) and Oskar Matzerath (The Tin Drum).
As a young boy, Vitus comes naturally to the piano. The works of Liszt, Schumann and Ravel (amongst others) come easily to him, impressing his parents' dinner-party guests with one swift flutter of the ivory keys. His father (Urs Jucker
) has a knack for technology and creates advanced hearing aids for a living. Vitus' mother (a stellar Julika Jenkins
) has a job as well but quickly dismisses it to become her sons muse, manager and guide, much to the young boy's chagrin. It's when mother dismisses Vitus' babysitter and object of affection Isabel that he becomes unruly and begins to act out a bit. Article continues below
Vitus (gifted Teo Gheorghiu
) turns 12 and suddenly decides that he wants to try something else. However, as his grandfather (the great Bruno Ganz
) points out, you sometimes have to be crafty. In accordance with his grandpa, Vitus hatches a scheme and soon becomes as normal and silly as any other 7th grader. That is, until he finds out that his family is in trouble and that Isabel (Tamara Scarpanelli), now 19, works at the local record shop. It is then that Vitus kicks back into action.
At first, Vitus has the same motivations as Oskar Matzerath. He sees the adults as people who saw one talent and didn't live the life around them, relegating themselves to one track. Matzerath threw himself down a flight of stairs to stop growing; Vitus jumps off his balcony to stop thinking. But where The Tin Drum had the grandiose visage of perversion and obscenity, Vitus has a subdued tone of enigma, a sort of goofy espionage sans a villain with a ridiculous haircut.
At best, Vitus seems a natural cure for the Spy Kids generation, a more heartfelt flight into a child's imagination and reasoning. As the quote that prefaces the film implies, the implications of the child's life depends on an adult's preconceived notions of what life is about. Vitus doesn't neglect or even dismiss his talent altogether, he just wants to understand the normalcy of every-day childhood before he is thrown into the hobgob of "genius" culture. Though ultimately inconsequential and partially overly melodramatic, Vitus still has an overwhelming charm and a sense of lo-fi dazzle that puts it heads-and-shoulders above garbage like Evan Almighty. Rather than go the easy route and say "all you need is your family," Murer rather politely suggests that maybe we actually need some well-spent time away from our parents.