Vitus (2006) Directed by Fredi M. Murer
(Winner of Swiss Film Prize for Best Film of 2007)
Vitus (played in part by piano virtuoso Teo Gheorghiu) is a child genius whose life is carefully guided along by his loving, but ambitious parents. He chafes under the regimented schedule by sassing his teachers and occasional displays of stubborn independence. One by one, his world is narrowed and choices taken away. His teenage babysitter, whom he secretly loves, is dismissed. His beloved piano teacher is replaced by a more fitting one. The only relief that remains is the time he spends with his Grandfather, carving boomerangs, making model airplanes, and discussing a dizzying array of life choices that Vitus finds outside his reach. As the pressure grows, Vitus makes a dramatic choice, launching himself off his balcony with play wings to land crumpled on the courtyard below. His injuries are minor, but he has lost his genius and testing reveals he is “normal”. As his parents struggle to come to terms with the change in their son’s prospects, Vitus’ grandfather discovers the truth. It’s at his home that Vitus can truly be himself, playing the piano and amassing a stock market fortune in his grandfather’s name. Will Vitus be able to live both worlds? Can he break free of his parent’s expectations and pursue the life he wants?
This is an amazing film, showcasing not only how parental excitement over the possible future of their children can blind them to their real needs, but how kids are kids. Vitus stubbornly refuses to play for the exalted piano teacher his mother has worked so hard to provide an interview with. He argues against taking his exams at such a young age, not wanting to be thrust in with kids twice his age. He wants to connect with other children, make friends, have an unrequited crush on his teenage babysitter. Just like everyone else. Is it sad that Vitus sabotages what could have been a stellar piano career? Not really. He loves piano, gets great joy out of his music. Sometimes living up to your potential is another person’s dream, not yours. And that is probably the hardest thing for us parents to realize.