Moonlight Sonata (1937)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Melodrama, Romantic Drama  |   Release Date - Feb 11, 1937 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 80 min.  |   Countries - UK  |  
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To today's audiences, Moonlight Sonata might seem like a bit of a strange film. After all, what modern film would open with a 15-minute piano concert, let alone include two other piano interludes? It's not just Moonlight's willingness to let things come to a cinematic halt that seems odd today; the film also has a plot that is extremely familiar to audiences raised on films and television. In addition, the way that the brilliant pianist Ignace Jan Paderewski is shoehorned into the film is a bit strange. Yet despite all these odd characteristics, Moonlight is a surprisingly engaging and affecting film. Part of its appeal comes from hearing Paderewski, whose singular talent will mesmerize those who appreciate classical music. Director Lothar Mendes has also done a very good job of presenting the concert pieces in a manner that gives them some life. For example, he lets his camera roam around the very odd concert hall during the opening segment, taking in the unusual audience arrangement, the architectural curves, and the glorious pristine whiteness of the set. During the finale performance of the title piece, he lets cinematographer Jan Stallich employ some interesting angles as Barbara Greene wanders to her destiny. Mendes also firmly believes in the trite story that forms the bulk of the film's narrative, and his belief elevates the tale. While Paderewski is no great actor, he acquits himself acceptably when called upon to participate in the story. The rest of the cast is much better, with Charles Farrell stalwart and honest, Marie Tempest amusing yet lovingly imperious, and Greene winningly naïve and headstrong. Moonlight's flaws should keep it from being such a good film, but the director and cast's dedication to the material work wonders with it instead.