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A movie directed by Fredi M. Murer

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Another child prodigy movie--this one may be just a wee bit different

  • Jan 20, 2008
Pros: Solid acting by both versions of the title character, story in general.

Cons: The specifics of the story fall flat more than not, pacing is weak.

The Bottom Line: If you like films about child prodigies, this one will be ok, otherwise, no reason to watch it.

Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot.

It has been hard for me to decide what to make of the Swiss film Vitus. It is part Little Man Tate, part Searching for Bobby Fisher, and a bit of Big.

Fredi Murer directs a film about a child prodigy, VItus (Fabrizio Borsani plays Vitus at 6, Teo Gheorghiu plays the 12 year old Vitus). In essence, there is nothing that Vitus cannot do. The early part of the film focuses on Vitus’s abilities with the piano. Helen (Julika Jenkins) and Leo (Urs Jucker) are the beaming parents of a child they come to take for granted both for his abilities and his charm; occasionally they run into a very truculent child (normal for the age, but intensified because of the intellectual capacity). This continues as Vitus ages. Because he is smarter than anyone teaching him, he is basically expelled from school. Then the questions about what he wants to be when he grows up naturally arise given that it is a common question for some of 12. He has no answer except that he wants to be normal.

Always interested in flight, Vitus takes a set of bat-type wings he and his grandfather (Bruno Ganz) made when Vitus was younger. He leaps from their balcony and gravity does what it will do. I won’t spoil the plot, so I’ve said what I will about it.

Mr. Borsani is a very strong actor. The reactions between him and his parents are very natural. Helen and Leo do have a slight edge of being proud parents of a well trained monkey, but it is only around the edges of their relationship with Vitus. Neither Ms. Jenkins nor Mr. Jucker gets in the way of either version of Vitus with regards to their performances.

The real story and relationship is between Vitus and his grandfather. Each version of Vitus acts extremely well with Mr. Ganz. They share the special relationship between a grandfather who is both playmate and teacher.

The jump from 6 to 12 is ham-fisted. The link between the two ages are three subplots that don’t really work that well together. If I go into detail it would give too much away; however these subplots are really the controlling metaphor for the entire film so the weaker they are the more strained the story, of course.

Vitus won fairly high acclaim and not all of it was wasted; however, in the final rinse cycle, I think at least a decent sized part of it hit a series of very flat notes. I really wanted to like the film for a host of reasons. Some of them were met, most were not. But if you like films like Little Man Tate and Billy Elliot then I doubt you will be totally disappointed here. I’m a bit of a maven of this type of film, so I tend to be a little hypercritical at times. The easiest way to put it is that there was nothing in the film that I could really hold on to in a way that made me truly like anyone except the grandfather.

If you do not like any or most of the films listed, then there is no reason to watch Vitus. On the other hand, if you do, then your time will not be wasted—maybe just not quite as well spent.


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More Vitus reviews
Quick Tip by . June 27, 2011
Watched this movie on Netflix DVD rental. Interesting and strange story of an exceptional (and exceptionally cheeky) child who is smarter than everyone around him. Sort of like Shine but with a clever twist (which I won't spoil).
review by . June 15, 2008
posted in Movie Hype
Vitus is a prodigy, not only of the piano, but of math and much else besides. His well intentioned mother essentially smothers Vitus with unintended consequences. A loving grandfather plays a big role in this. (Nope, I'm not going to give much away here since it is very easy to spoil this movie by providing too much detail.)     Suffice it to say that Vitus is a one-of-a-kind child, brilliant and wise (with the help of grandpa) beyond his years.     Unfortunately, …
review by . November 29, 2007
VITUS is a film from Switzerland that has garnered many accolades and nearly won an Oscar. And yes, it is that good! Written by Fredi M. Murer, Peter Luisi, and Lukas B. Suter and directed by Murer, VITUS explores the life of a child genius, a lad who from the age of five is obviously gifted in that he can play Bach et al after only a few months lessons and is able to read books and understand concepts that make his stance in a regular kindergarten class untenable. But the film is less about the …
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About this movie


In this engaging drama from Switzerland, a child prodigy finds a unique way of dealing with being different. Vitus is no normal child. With a 180 IQ, a voracious appetite for knowledge, and a preternatural gift at playing the piano, he finds it hard to fit in with his peers. Like many parents of exceptional children, his mother and father (Julika Jenkins and Urs Jucker) are overbearing, eager to see their child succeed. But as his parents push and fellow children jeer, Vitus's grandfather (Bruno Ganz, THE DOWNFALL) simply allows the boy to be himself. <br> <br> Though VITUS follows the blueprint for childhood prodigy movies (such as SEARCHING FOR BOBBY FISCHER and the first act of SHINE) a bit too closely at times, it's saved by a great cast and some interesting twists. As the 12-year-old Vitus, Teo Gheorghiu, himself a piano prodigy, heightens the sense of realism in the film. The classic music he plays is beautiful, and the actor's playing itself is remarkable. Audiences used to seeing hand doubles i...
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Genre: Drama
Release Date: June 29, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG
DVD Release Date: November 27, 2007
Runtime: 2hrs 3min
Studio: Sony Pictures
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