DOUBLE LIFE OF FRANZ SCHUBERT, THE (THE TEMPTATION OF FRANZ SCHUBERT) TV
(director: Peter Webber; screenwriters: Nicolas Kent/story by Peter Ettedgui & Peter Webber; cinematographer: Zoran Djordjevic; editor: Jake Martin; music: Hanover Band; cast: Simon Russell Beale (Franz Schubert), Jason Flemyng (Franz von Schober), Dave Hill (The Orderly), Karl Johnson (The Doctor), Imogen Bain(The Nurse), Emilia Fox (Karoline von Esterhazy), Freddie Jones (Father Schubert), Richard Van Allan (Michael Vogl); Runtime: 50; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Mark Bentley/Nicolas Kent; Kultur Video; 1997-UK)
“The film was too short to have great impact.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
An unflinching British TV biography of Vienna-born musical composer Fran Schubert (Simon Russell Beale), who died in 1828 at age 31 of syphilis. It exposes the dark side of the legendary artist, whose debauched personal life countermanded his great musical feats. This abbreviated exploration of Schubert’s life features besides a dramatization excerpts from some of his extraordinary compositions, such as Die Forelle, Piano Sonata in B Flat, Fantasy in F Minor and Symphony No. 8 in B Minor (Unfinished).
Director Peter Webber (“Girl with a Pearl Earring”) picks up Schubert’s life when he’s brought to a Vienna hospital by his maverick friend and ‘Svengali,’ Franz von Schober (Jason Flemyng), who allowed Schubert to move into his mansion and helped him gather patrons. While delusional from syphilis, Schubert recalls some major events in his life that includes rejecting his stern parish schoolmaster father (Freddie Jones) and telling him that he’s a ‘composer and not a teacher;’ being lured into a rakish life by the wealthy hedonist von Schober; getting hooked up with his conformist opera singer patron Michael Vogl (Richard Van Allan); and his unrequited love for his countess pupil Karoline von Esterhazy (Emilia Fox).
We learn that Schubert was to succumb four years after his forced hospitalization for syphilis, and that these last years were his most productive in composing.
The story is penned by Webber and Peter Ettedgui, while Nicolas Kent is the screenwriter.
The film was too short to have great impact, but there’s a raw power contrasting how nerdy Schubert could be (he stood only five feet, one and one-half inches tall) and how he was someone always in conflict as his dark and light side waged an internal battle for his soul.
REVIEWED ON 8/27/2008 GRADE: B https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/