Last Rhapsody (Utolsó Rapszódia): Film Review

Franz Liszt, whose final years are depicted here, will have to wait a bit longer for his "Amadeus."

The final days of composer Franz Liszt's life are the subject of focus in director Bence Gyöngyössy's film.

MONTREAL — The final days of composer Franz Liszt are the subject of speculation in Bence Gyöngyössy's Last Rhapsody, which imagines a 1911 stage production about Liszt's death being interrupted by a mystery woman bent on correcting its account. Respectful but not exactly spirited, it may interest hardcore classical music fans but lacks the romantic sweep needed to succeed in theaters.

The film opens on rehearsals for the about-to-open play, whose script hews to the then-accepted (and since disputed) account of Liszt's death from pneumonia. A stranger shows up backstage, claiming to have been the pianist's "last pupil" and intimate companion; setting cast and crew down, she tells them about a May/December relationship that had been erased from official biographies.

Though this Nina (Ilona Nagy) describes the relationship in terms of muses and soulmates, any physical romance is only hinted at -- with the exception of one scene toward the end, when Nina proffers her naked body to a man clearly nearing the end of his life. Prior to that, what we get is mostly family politics, with Liszt's jealous daughter Cosima (Andrea Söptei) -- who was married to Richard Wagner and organizing a production of Tristan and Isolde after his death -- working imperiously to keep the young woman out of her father's home. This is fairly dry stuff, set in handsome estates but having the look and feel of a TV production.

As we watch this story through Nina's eyes, the roles are played by the same actors cast in the play she is interrupting; this double-casting doesn't help viewers lose themselves in the illusion. Particularly distracting is the long white wig Tamás Jordán wears as Liszt; real-world photos of the composer don't look this cartoonish.

Production Company: Utolsó Rapszódia Ltd.
Cast: Tamás Jordán, Andrea Söptei, Piroska Molnár, Péter Kálloy Molnár, Ilona Nagy, Tibor Gáspar
Director: Bence Gyöngyössy
Screenwriter: Tibor Fonyódi
Producer:  Bence Gyöngyöossy, Barna Kabay
Director of photography: Sándor Csukás
Production designers: Viktória Horváth, Zsolt Nánássy
Music: Franz Liszt
Costume designer: Mónika Kis
Editor: Károly Szalai
No rating, 75 minutes