And that is the story of Alma,
Who knew how to receive and to give.
The body that reached her embalma,
Was one that had known how to live!
Alma, tell us-all modern women are jealous!
Though you didn't even use Ponds...
You got Gustav und Walter und Franz.
I particularly delight in lowbrow presentations of the highbrow. Plus, Tom Lehrer made her (in)famous as the original superplayer in his song, "Alma". So I waited in the most tantalizing suspense for the screening of Bruce Beresford's BRIDE OF THE WIND, the biopic of Alma Schindler, who either married or dallied with (at least): Gustav Mahler, Walter Gropius, Oskar Kokoschka, and Franz Werfel. I was really looking forward to lots of bodice-ripping and breeches-lowering among the European art set, and while BRIDE OF THE WIND does provide some of that, the movie as a whole is a big disappointment.
The first unpleasantness is exceptionally wretched dialogue. Levy's (One has to wonder if she's related to one of the producers.) characters don't so much speak as make pronouncements or utter headlines. "There are rules in this society," intones Alma's stepfather, after she exhibits some unconventional behavior. "Music is my life," gushes Alma, while bewitching poor old Gustav Mahler (Pryce). This gives BRIDE OF THE WIND an unfortunate exhibit-like quality, as if its creators tried to enliven a museum presentation with a few judicious dollops of sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll.
The second unpleasantness is the decision not to just go for the full entertainment value that this woman's soap-operatic life could have provided. There was ample opportunity here to concentrate on romance, intrigue, and passion. I mean, come on-BRIDE OF THE WIND's raison d'etre is Alma and her many beddings. Clearly a story for the groundlings-it just happens to have happened in the artistic milieu-but the filmmaker chose to play to the gallery instead.
Another unpleasantness was listening to lots of horrid Mahler, no big surprise really, since a large portion of the movie's 1:50 is spent on Alma's first marriage, but downright seat-squirmy for those who could cheerfullly go lifetimes without Mahler's music.
Alma (Wynter) was a composer of some substance in her own right, but she put aside her professional aspirations and became a muse to a composer, an architect, a painter, and a writer. Although the script has Alma declaring that this deferred dream pains her, the story presents a woman who doesn't seem to know what she wants. Alma comes across as an indulged and inconsistent woman whom one can have no sympathy with, played by an actress who lacks the gifts to make Alma the compelling and ravishing woman she evidently was.
Once Mahler succumbs to his heart ailment, BRIDE OF THE WIND moves right along, as Alma progresses inch by inch, bit by bit, man by man. Only Vincent Perez's Kokoschka, "the Freud of Viennese painters," seemed to have warm blood flowing through his veins. The rest of her men seemed more like tableaux vivant than film actors. The guy who plays Gropius was a real cutie, but stiff as a board. Pryce looked embarrassed to be seen in this mess.
God only knows what made Beresford book passage on this sinking ship. I read that he's a big classical music fan, so maybe that's it. Maybe baby needs new shoes. Beresford directed BREAKER MORANT and TENDER MERCIES, so we know he knows how, even though you couldn't tell it from watching BRIDE OF THE WIND. Even Mahler fans would be better off just buying the soundtrack.