24 November 2007 | blanche-2
Takes up where "Fruhlingssinfonie" left off
Katharine Hepburn is Clara Wieck, Paul Henried is Robert Schumann, and Robert Walker is Brahms in "Song of Love," a 1947 film directed by Clarence Brown and also starring Henry Daniell and Leo G. Carroll. "Song of Love" covers the marriage of Wieck and Schumann, while "Fruhlingssinfonie" (Spring Symphony), which stars Nastassia Kinski as Clara, ends before the couple's marriage. The latter makes much more of a feminist statement. In that film, the well-known Clara Wieck realizes that upon marrying Schumann, there will not be room for "two pianos" as she puts it, and that her career, in fact, is over. While it is true that Schumann wanted a traditional wife and that in those days, it said bad things about a husband that let his wife go out and earn money, Clara Schumann did indeed continue her career up until 5 years before she died.
Though there are some dramatic liberties taken with the script, much of it is true. As Schumann mentions in his conversation with Clara's father, he did live with the Wieck family for a time. Clara did take her father to court. Brahms was probably not in love with Clara, but the two were very close friends, and he did take care of the children as shown in the film. "Song of Love" is a little vague on Schumann's illness. Nowadays it is suspected to be syphilis that was treated with mercury; another suspicion is that he was bipolar. But as the film documents, he became quite ill, indeed hearing the the note "A" in his head. There are also reports that Clara and Brahms destroyed his later works because they demonstrated the disintegration of his mind. In fact, one or two pieces were destroyed, but many were put into the repertoire. And Clara did indeed promote his music in concerts throughout her life.
The glorious music of Schumann and Brahms is played throughout the film, and the performances are first-rate. Katharine Hepburn gives a beautiful characterization of Clara - strong, devoted, intelligent and gentle. Robert Walker is a warm, charming Brahms, and Paul Henried is excellent as the depressed Schumann.
Schumann, Brahms, Liszt, Chopin - once composers roamed the world as dinosaurs did. Now composers are dinosaurs. Our technologically-based society is not conducive to producing great music or art, though musicians and artists now have a variety of technological advances at their disposal to incorporate into their work. Somehow it's not the same. Let "Song of Love" take you back in time. I highly recommend "Fruhlingssinfonie," another beautiful film on the subject with a slightly different point of view. If you can, get it with subtitles rather than the dubbed version.