An amusing, heartfelt & sentimental delight from the writer-director of Cinema Paradiso, The Legend of 1900 brims with warmth, is crafted with heart and does require suspension of disbelief. But thanks to Ennio Morricone’s wonderful score & Tim Roth’s charming performance, this 165 mins epic manages to be a breezy ride for the most part.
The Legend of 1900 (also known as La leggenda del pianista sull’oceano) tells the story of a baby boy who was found abandoned on an ocean liner by a crew member, was adopted by the same, and grew up to be a musical prodigy who never set foot on land. The plot is narrated by one of his companions and chronicles their journey together over the years.
Written & directed by Giuseppe Tornatore, the film has a simple albeit unrealistic structure but it doesn’t pack the emotional punch to really tug our hearts as his magnum opus did. However, there is a comforting quality to it that allows us to just sail with wherever it is heading. Yet, more than anything, it’s the musical performances that drive the narrative here.
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Although the journey is a warmhearted one, it still doesn’t amount to a lot in retrospect. Our protagonist remains the same person that he was in the beginning and never undergoes any defining change. Maybe that was the point, that the outside world is too big for some people but after investing in his journey for so long, this is not the end result anyone was looking forward to.
From the technical standpoint, the film’s exquisitely detailed sets & vibrant camerawork do stand out but only during moments that feature our protagonist conjuring his magic on the piano. Editing allows the musical sequences to play out in their entirety but the dramatic portions lack that fervor. As for the Visual effects, they look terribly dated, as evident in the fake-ass view of the ocean.
What holds the story together and helps us steer past the finish line is Tim Roth’s endearing input which, when coupled with Morricone’s awe-inspiring soundtrack, gives the film its finest moments. Pruitt Taylor Vince also chips in with a brilliant input as our virtuoso musician’s companion & best friend, and he is also the narrator of this fable. The rest do well with what they are given but these two impress the most.
On an overall scale, The Legend of 1900 is a heartwarming tale of music, passion, friendship & life that paints a vivid portrait of a gifted but rather unconventional persona who could do anything… except be ordinary. It’s soulful, touching & magical vibe will strike an emotional chord with many viewers but there are also going to be a few who may find it a tad too sappy & overlong. It’s not Tornatore’s finest but there are flashes of brilliance sprinkled throughout the narrative. By all means, get on board.