Upper class society in a period setting is ripe for ridicule; the outfits, the language, and just the sheer grandiosity of it all is so easy to caricature and be derisory about, and it’s exactly here Whit Stillman triumphed with his indelible drama Love & Friendship. It’s clear to see that John Stephenson is vying to thrive in a similar capacity with Interlude in Prague, except this kitsch melodrama falls flat thanks to a lacklustre screenplay, without that same sharpness and wit it requires to truly work.
Baron Saloka (James Purefoy) is a nasty, embittered, affluent member of society, who promises those around him he will fund a trip for the esteemed composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Aneurin Barnard) to the Czechoslovakian capital. And so begins a few turbulent months in the life of the prolific talent, as he falls for opera singer Zuzanna Lubtak (Morfydd Clark), despite the fact she appears to have been promised to the Baron. Set against a theatrical backdrop, full of singers and writers, the true drama can be found off the stage, proving that sometimes, life can so often be stranger than fiction.
It’s an intriguing time period and setting for audiences to immerse themselves in, as one seldom seen on the silver screen – it’s just such a shame it’s been given the ‘Hollywood’ treatment, losing that sense of authenticity as everybody speaks in their most refined English accents. This doesn’t have to be an issue – but when dealing with such a prominent historical figure like Mozart, to hear Barnard speak without a mere suggestion of Austrian to his dialect is somewhat off-putting. On a positive note the music is great, and enriches the narrative accordingly, and given the setting and characters that adorn this particular environment, it’s presented without contrivance too, serving a narrative purpose as well as providing drama and inciting emotion.
Operatic in many ways, Interlude in Prague is certainly no less melodramatic nor unsubtle that the productions within, but tonally it’s all over the place. At times gloriously frivolous and comedic, you just wish that kitsch feel was played up to more, to allow this film off the hook in instances it can otherwise be accused of taking itself too seriously. Problem is, as the narrative progresses and the darker it becomes, given the irreverence and overstatement that preceded it, it’s not been warranted, as a film that can be accused of trying to have it’s cake and then gobble it all up.
Interlude in Prague is released on May 25th