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Saturday, January 18, 2020

Review: The Sonata

Director: Andrew Desmond
Screenplay: Andrew Desmond and Arthur Morin
Year: 2020

Music can express as many emotions as any other form of artistic expression by just combining twelve notes. In the history of cinema, it has shown to be an extremely important element to establish the atmosphere of a scene either directly or by being discordant with the visuals, but it has also been used as the main topic of a plot as the case of “The Perfection”. “The Sonata” uses this way of expression to center its plot, engulfed in a disturbing atmosphere.

Rose is a young woman recognized for her talent playing the violin and who finds herself in the middle of her development as an artist. After her father’s death, who was a recognized composer, Rose inherits the mansion in which he had reclused himself to spend his final days, as well as all his compositions. Inside the works she inherits, she finds the latest masterpiece in which her father worked on; a sonata that holds many mysteries. 

The opening scene of “The Sonata” presents the actions of a character from his point of view, in which the viewer feels inside the action, but unable to do anything. In the background of this scene, we see parts of the interior of the frightening mansion that will play an important role in the atmosphere and plot of the rest of the movie. Following that, we see how the mysterious character bathes with gasoline and sets himself ablaze, who we discover was the famous compositor Richard Marlow (Rutger Hauer; “Blade Runner”), Rose’s (Freya Tingley; “Hemlock Grove”) father. 

This scene sets in motion the rest of the events that take place in the movie. Once his death is known, Rose inherits all her father’s belongings, which include the mansion in which he killed himself and all her musical compositions. Without knowing about the way he died, Rose goes to the mansion hoping that her father’s works will be of help for her career as a musician, where she finds herself frustrated.

The exposition that allow us to get to know Rose’s character and her agent Charles (Simon Abkarian; “Rendition”), whit whom she has a tight relationship, is superimposed over Janis Eglitis’ (“The Gambler”) captivating cinematography and Alexis Maingaud’s exquisite musical composition, a combinations that proves to be an audiovisual delight. However, the script of also director Andrew Desmond (“Entity”) together with Arthur Morin is not at the same level as this spectacle. The story manages to be interesting enough to keep the viewer interested but is too tame in the horror.

While a perennial unnerving atmosphere is established, this doesn’t directly translate to the horror. The plot of Desmond and Morin regularly refers to topic and symbolism about the occult that create plenty of suspense, but which potential is not exploited. It’s not until the last bars where we discover the story behind the sonata and what Marlow did in the privacy of his mansion that, while disturbing, lacks the impact that the crafted suspense promises. 

“The Sonata” is an audiovisual experience, mainly because of its cinematography and musical composition. Although it creates a lot of suspense and an interesting plot and has enough potential for being horrific, it ends up betting for a more conservative outcome that is not at the same level as the production value and that doesn’t repay the expectations that it creates on the viewer. Even when the ending is affected by the bad CGI effects and by not going deep into the horror, “The Sonata” leans the balance on its favor by virtue of its excellent cinematography, musical composition, and constant suspense.

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