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Cruelty & Splendour

The Bohemian (Il Boemo)

Director: Petr Vaclav

Cast: Vojtech Dyk, Barbara Ronchi, Elena Radonicich, Lana Vlady, Salvatore Langella, Cristiano Donati

Running Time: 2 hours and 10 minutes

Film Rating: 8 out of 10

Languages: Czech, German & Italian with English subtitles

Festival: European Film Festival

Czech actor Vojtech Dyk plays the role of minor Baroque composer Josef Mysliveček, a Czech composer and precursor of the infamous Mozart in director Petr Vaclav’s lavish and entirely European film The Bohemian or Il Boemo in Italian. The Bohemian is set mainly in Italy at the decadent peak of the Baroque period in classical music in such illustrious centres of culture as Venice, Bologna and Naples.

Josef Mysliveček arrives in Italy to become a famous composer but unlike Mozart he does not rely on anyone royal patron but becomes a more contract composer for various emerging opera companies in Italy during the 1760’s and 1770’s.

Director Petr Vaclav cleverly captures with illumination the excess and drama of the Baroque Opera world in 18th century Italy when wealthy nobleman had composers in their power while the noblewomen and Opera divas were all trying to seduce the composer amidst temptations of candlelit orgies and outrageous theatre antics.

For Mysliveček was truly captivated by the excessively emotional and decadent Italians especially the King of Naples. It was mainly the Opera divas that had the composer working furiously to please them and those wealthy patrons that kept him afloat in Italy after he abandons his family back in Prague. For a hard working Czech composer like Mysliveček in the 18th century, Italy was seen as an illustrious and expensive country, complete with cruelty and dazzling splendour.

The divas in question are Caterina Gabrielli wonderfully played by Italian actress Barbara Ronchi and Anna Fracassati played by Lana Vlady who is utterly superb as an entirely temperamental opera singer that needs to be slapped before performing before the Royal entourage. There is a brilliant scene when the one diva throws herself out of one of the Opera boxes during the performance of an amazing concerto.

The Bohemian is a lavish film, utterly resplendent with beautiful costumes, complete with commedia del arte masks for the Venetian scenes and the operatic scenes are absolutely divine. While not as brilliant as the Oscar worthy film Amadeus, The Bohemian is as amusing and bizarre as director Yorgos Lanthimos’s Oscar winning film The Favourite.

Vojtech Dyk is excellent as the Bohemian composer whose life starts declining rapidly through promiscuity and gambling. Mysliveček watches helplessly as his most promising career as a classical composer slowly vanishes from recognition while the more talented and supremely famous Mozart rises from the ashes of classical Baroque music in a competitive and debauched European cultural world. Ironically like Mozart, Mysliveček also died destitute.

The Bohemian was the Czech Republic’s official entry for the Best International Feature Film Oscar for the 2023 Academy Awards but unfortunately did not make the cut.

If audiences enjoyed Amadeus or The Favourite then they will love The Bohemian which gets a film rating of 8 out of 10 and is especially suited for fans of Baroque Opera who will find this cinematic interpretation intriguing, shocking and dazzling.

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