Opening 1 Feb 2018
Losing her sight in childhood, Maria Theresia (Dragus) is an 18-year-old musical prodigy celebrated and active in Viennese society. Understandably, the ivory keys and her vocal cords are a release for her feelings, and passions. Basking in her limelight, Herr and Frau Paradis (Miko, Kolm) orchestrate all aspects of their daughter’s practice and performing schedules, and life. A celebrated doctor agrees to treat “Resi” in 1777. At his private clinic, various odd patients are under Franz Anton Mesmer’s (Striesow) care; his methods are controversial, albeit successful. Initially Agnes (Riegner), assigned to help Resi, entertains herself at the blind patient’s expense. Just as Resi needs time to explore her new environment’s challenging contrasts. Warily she approaches other patients, group sessions, tactile signals, and interactions. Even the doctor, although they share one passion: “I feel like a general [when performing]” Resi acknowledges, just as Mesmer often ends sessions playing a glass harmonica. Stripped of society’s fashionable adornments, in this unconstrained environment Resi learns to take risks and fend for herself. Her eyesight begins improving, affecting her musical prowess. Panicking, “Who is she without her music?” the Paradis’ make a precipitous decision. Unbeknownst to them, Resi is now wont to having an opinion.
Alissa Walser’s novel, Am Anfang war die Nacht Musik (Mesmerized) is based on historical facts. Following Walser’s lead, and Kathrin Resetarits’ screenplay director Barbara Albert carefully composes Licht’s tempo: altissimo, to lilts, melancolico, and dissonance. Production values are unfalteringly sound: Christine A. Maier’s camerawork, Niki Mossböck’s editing, Lorenz Dangel’s expansive music, and Katharina Wöppermann’s admirable set designs. Maria Theresia von Paradis did go on to tour throughout 18th-century European courts and concert halls. Including Hamburg, Germany where she met “the Berlin Bach,” musician C. P. E., fifth son of Bach Johann Sebastian Bach. In 2017 Licht screened at Filmfest Hamburg. (Marinell Haegelin)