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» » Unfinished Symphony (1934)

Short summary

Composer Franz Schubert--broke, struggling and unhappy--gets a break when a wealthy friend wangles him an invitation to a command performance in front of a princess of the royal family. Schubert performs a version of his new work, "Symphony in B Minor", for the princess, but a misunderstanding results in Schubert storming out of the concert in a rage. Complications ensue.

In the Japanese director Ozu Yasujiro's first sound film, the 1936 drama The Only Son, the main character takes his visiting mother to a cinema in Tokyo to see her first sound film. The mother is unimpressed and promptly falls asleep. The film playing in this sequence is Unfinished Symphony. Ozu had excellent knowledge of the contemporary cinema of his time.

User reviews


  • comment
    • Author: Ttyr
    Anthony Asquith was one of my all-time favorite English director's and this early effort of his clearly shows why. He not only tells the story of Franz Schubert with fine pacing, terrific performances, good photography, and an enchanting score, but he delivers a feel for the mystery of a Schubert even his best friends could never get truly close to. All music lovers should savour the rare moments captured in this forgotten gem. 9/10.
  • comment
    • Author: Leniga
    Being a fan of Schubert, whether it's his orchestral or chamber music or even more his songs (he was the most prolific Lieder composer, over 600 if remembered correctly, and a large amount of them are masterpieces and among the best songs in any style or language), and who is appreciating Marta Eggerth more, interest for 'Unfinished Symphony' was high.

    Luckily, 'Unfinished Symphony' didn't disappoint. It is not one of the greatest composer biopics out there but it is one of the most unjustly under-appreciated ones and a must for those who loves Schubert's music and wants to know more about him. There are a few instances of less than sumptuous photography (though most of the time it's fine), but criticisms really are few.

    'Unfinished Symphony' is mostly lushly produced, with gorgeous costumes and elegant settings, with a truly luscious romantic atmosphere evoked. The story of the composer's life and how he came to not finish the symphony makes for fascinating viewing, it may not be entirely accurate but didn't seem like history re-invented (historical accuracy or lack of it however hardly ever masks my enjoyment for the film) and is beautifully told.

    Words cannot describe how masterful Schubert's music is, we are given a healthy dose of it here (some of it among his most famous pieces and his best) and it benefits hugely from the involvement of the rich playing of the Vienna Philarmonic and the fine singing from Eggerth. Standouts are Eggerth's rendition of "Standchen" (beginning with the line "Leise Flehen Meine Lieder") and the movingly stirring choral performance of "Ave Maria".

    Dialogue flows well as does the pacing, that never feels bogged down. Anthony Asquith does a fine job with the directing. Hans Jaray is a wonderfully sensitive and confident Schubert, while Eggerth beguiles again in a role well suited to her.

    In conclusion, lovely film and under-appreciated. 9/10 Bethany Cox
  • Cast overview:
    Mártha Eggerth Mártha Eggerth - Caroline Esterhazy
    Helen Chandler Helen Chandler - Emmie Passeuter
    Hans Jaray Hans Jaray - Franz Schubert
    Eliot Makeham Eliot Makeham - Joseph Passenter
    Ronald Squire Ronald Squire - Count Esterhazy
    Beryl Laverick Beryl Laverick - Mary Esterhazy
    Cecil Humphreys Cecil Humphreys - Salieri
    Hermine Sterler Hermine Sterler - Princess Kinsky
    Esme Percy Esme Percy - Huettenbrenner
    Frida Richard Frida Richard - Schubert's Landlady
    Paul Wagner Paul Wagner - Lt. Folliot
    Brember Wills Brember Wills - Secretary
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