Funny how things click together in this world.

I would never have heard of the award-winning Swiss movie, Vitus, had it not happened to be featured in an article in the Hartford Courant when our daughter's Swiss in-laws happened to be in Connecticut, and happened to look through the newspaper.  (Why, O why does English not have a word for the "our child's in-laws" relationship?  I have need of it often enough.)  Knowing my interest in Swiss German, her father-in-law cut out the article and sent it to me.  (I am going to have to invent my own term, I can see.)

That was months ago, and only recently did I have the sense to see if trusty Netflix could provide the movie.  Much to my surprise, they could!  We watched it this afternoon.  Our intention had been to watch part during lunch and finish it during dinner, but we couldn't bring ourselves to turn it off.

I've deliberately not included any links to Vitus, because they contain spoilers that I certainly would not have liked to have known about before seeing the film.  But I do recommend it, as we thoroughly enjoyed it.  It's PG, with a few words I wouldn't want the grandkids to pick up, but that would require reading the subtitles.  I'd say they'd probably lose interest in a foreign-language film, but Swing Girls was a hit even though in Japanese.

Vitus combines some of my favorite themes:  brilliant children, music, and loving families.  Sure, I could complain about one or two things, but overall it was a delightful movie.  Actually, the main disappointment was the language, which was falsely billed as Swiss German.  I caught a few Swiss German words (and felt for the student being told by his teacher to speak High German only), but mostly I'd say I understood far too much of the German for it to have been anything other than High German throughout most of the film.  I'd be interested in the verdict of those who know better, however.  The characters freely mix English words and phrases in their speech, so maybe they are equally freely mixing the two Germans, and I'm only catching the few High German words and the much fewer Swiss German phrases I know.  Or Swiss German words similar enough to High German that they sound familiar to my ear.

One question I had from the beginning was how they managed to get the actors to look so much as if they were really playing the piano—it looked far too good to be fakes.  Here's the answer:  Teo Gheorghiu, who plays the older Vitus.

How do we know this is really a Swiss film?  The characters carry their cut flowers upside down!
Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, October 31, 2009 at 3:24 pm | Edit
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I'd like to know more about him, because it sounds to me like he is quite comfortable with Swiss German but defaults into a nice British English (or at least not American). I'm quite impressed with how relaxed he is at the keyboard, and of course how well he plays. It would be a fun film to see sometime.



Posted by Janet on Sunday, November 01, 2009 at 4:07 am

Teo Gheorghiu is Swiss-Canadian, born in Männedorf (Zurich). His mother is Canadian and his father Romanian, and he attends the Purcell School in England. Online stories differ slightly—surprise!—on the details, but that's the gist. I was wondering how he got a Swiss passport with two foreign parents, but it may be that he gets the "Swiss" label by virtue of birth and upbringing, not passport. He's fluent in four languages, they say: I would guess English, Romanian, Swiss German, and German, with English being his "mother tongue," or at least his mother's tongue, given his surname, which sounds more Romanian than Canadian. That and the fact that he's been living in England since 2001 would explain defaulting to British English.

Here's a great interview from about a year ago.



Posted by SursumCorda on Sunday, November 01, 2009 at 6:21 am

Now I really wish I could see it with you. I watched parts of it again, this time paying more attention to the language than to the plot. I'm fairly certain now that there is a lot of Swiss German in it, and also much High German. The Swiss German is in the more informal, intimate settings, such as family times, and the High German at school, in the workplace...and when Vitus is being scolded, though the last is also sometimes English. Of course this is 99.99% speculation on my part, hence my desire for you to see it. That and the fact that I think you'll enjoy it, of course.



Posted by SursumCorda on Sunday, November 01, 2009 at 9:20 pm
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