Two films in the field of classical music were released almost simultaneously that revolve around the office of conductor, a role that, according to the conventions, only a male professional could play. In her documentary The Conductor, the academic and documentary filmmaker Bernadette Wegenstein looks at the American conductor Marin Alsop born in 1956, while the Dutch filmmaker Maria Peters wrote and directed the biographical fiction Antonia: A Symphony (De Dirigent) which is shown on Netflix .
In an interview, Maria Peters explained that the figure and career of Antonia Brico (1902 -1989) fascinated her as the destination of a Dutch woman who was taken from Rotterdam to the United States at age six by her adoptive parents, became passionate about music, studied She studied Fine Arts and piano and struggled with discipline and tenacity to become a conductor, the first conductor to conduct the Berlin and New York symphony orchestras. As a skilled screenwriter and filmmaker, Peters turned the story of Antonia Brico into a period biopic that follows the passion of a young woman, describing her status as the adopted daughter of an immigrant couple in California, her struggle to convince professionals and audiences that a woman is capable of “imposing herself on an orchestra of one hundred men”, as a famous conductor of the time comments.
As is normal in a biographical film that pretends to be attractive to the public, the supposed “real events” are seasoned with characters and situations that deepen the conflict, build suspense and create identification. Thus we observe how Antonia (Christanne de Bruija) lives a passionate romance with the young and rich Frank (Benjamin Weinwright) and enjoys the friendship and support of Robin (Scott Turner Schofield), owner of a transvestite club in New York. These types of elements can enrich a movie and deepen the development of the subject. In Antonia: A Symphony, however, it does not seem to me that they have succeeded.
Antonia: A symphony is a tribute to the intelligence, passion and tenacity of a woman who, in the early twentieth century, struggled and found a way to fulfill her passion against convention. When Antonia, through a series of word duels with men and women, contradicts prejudices and imposes her way of achieving equality, we are on her side. What, however, does not seem acceptable is the construction of a world as flat and without nuances as the one in the film. Flat and macho characters such as the foster mother and the piano teacher contrast so starkly with the sweetness and solidarity of the transvestite club employees that the reflection on gender inequality and diversity loses force. Despite being played by a very attractive actress, Antonia herself lacks the physicality and nuances that allow us to feel her passion for music, her inner need to perform it and recognize, where appropriate, a cultural and social task that we have not finished doing. .