The Sonata (2018)
Plot: A gifted musician inherits a mansion after her long-lost father dies under mysterious circumstances. She discovers his last musical masterpiece riddled with cryptic symbols that unravels an evil secret.
Review: Rose Fisher (Freya Tingley), on the rise, talented violinist, inherits her estranged father’s property in France after his death. On arriving at the mansion, she discovers a violin sonata, her father’s final work. Some staves on the sonata begin with certain cryptic symbols and Rose sets out to decipher them along with her agent. Her discoveries not only lead her towards unlocking the mysterious symbols but possibly even her father’s evil secrets. A gothic horror mystery unfolds.
Rose Fisher, although a talented violinist, is quite stubborn sporting an icy demeanor. Freya Tingley is good as Rose however her character is not fleshed out at all. Tingley is confident in the role but it takes time for her to grow on you because the writing doesn’t really give the audience anything to latch on to.
Simon Akbarian plays Charles Vernais, her agent and mentor who helps her in deciphering the sonata but his intentions for doing so may not be what they seem. Akbarian is quite good here but in parts as the writing of his character is rather erratic. I do get what the writer meant to convey with his character’s graph but the unevenness of the writing makes his performance go into hammy territory towards the end.
Even though this is one of the late great Rutger Hauer’s final film performances, he is barely there in it but his character Richard Marlowe’s spirit lingers all throughout the film from the first frame to the last. I would have preferred a bit more of his presence but even in his brief appearance, he ends up lending a bit of gravitas to the film.
The biggest issue of the film is its screenplay. This is the first feature film screenplay of both Arthur Morin and director Andrew Desmond and it shows. The mystery is set-up nicely and I was engrossed in the unraveling of clues but the third act is a letdown. I am all for having an open ending and not having all questions answered but it does matter which questions are being left unanswered. I feel both the mystery and horror aspects of this film would have benefitted profusely by the inclusion of a few flashback scenes. Also as I mentioned above both the main characters are very thinly written which makes it hard for the audience to be invested in them.
Andrew Desmond does have talent when it comes to his directing abilities. I loved the gothic imagery brought to life by him and cinematographer Janis Eglitis via beautifully composed shots. The decision to shoot in the 19th century Cesvaine Palace in Latvia was genius. The majestic quality provided by the palace trumps any possible set that could have been constructed. Also if practical effects had been used in lieu of poor-looking CGI in the third act it would have elevated the horror. Some obvious jump scares are present but thankfully they are used sparingly. A lot of elements considered staples in classic gothic films are present here but as they are helmed quite competently, I was pleasantly surprised.
The music by Alexis Maingaud especially the titular sonata is aptly ominous. The background music however is a bit overbearing at times as if its aim is to let the audience know that something intense is happening in case it’s not clear to them.
The Sonata is a gothic film focused more on mystery than horror. I am a massive gothic films fan and I can objectively state that the film excels when it comes to showcasing its gothic elements. These elements do mask the weak writing to a fair extent making this sonata a composition worth witnessing.
My Rating: 7/10