When notoriously reclusive composer Richard Marlowe (Rutger Hauer) commits operatic suicide, dousing himself in petrol and burning himself alive, his estranged daughter Rose (Freya Tingley) inherits his estate.

Having been abandoned by Marlowe in infancy, Rose has never known her father, a virtuoso violinist in her own right she has never traded on his notoriety, has kept his existence a secret even from her overly-protective manager Charles (Simon Abkarian). 

Travelling to Marlowe’s isolated mansion in the French countryside, Rose soon discovers that the father she resented, hated, who left an aching hole in her life, has watched over her from afar, taken pride in her achievements. She also discovers among his personal papers his final composition, a sonata of breathtaking beauty that represents the culmination of his life’s work. But there’s something not quite right about it; it’s marked with arcane, occult symbols that must be deciphered in the correct sequence order to unlock its secrets.

As Charles investigates the symbols, unlocking a centuries-old Satanic conspiracy that in music lies the power to summon the Devil, Rose uncovers the horrific truth about her father and the terrifying legacy he’s bequeathed her…

Don’t worry if you experience a sense of déjà vu while watching The Sonata, that you’ve seen it all before. Relax. It’s ok. You’re not going mad. You have seen it before. It was just called The Ninth Gate, an expensively bland adaptation of Spanish novelist Arturo Pérez-Reverte’s playful novel The Dumas Club, directed by on-the-lam Oscar- winning kiddie raper Roman Polanski and starring a lifeless Johnny Depp as a somnambulist rare book dealer on the trail of a book rumoured to be written by Satan. 

But while The Sonata may be predictable, it’s a lot more fun than Polanski’s leaden devilish detective film, co-writer and debut feature director making the most of his tight budget, rural Latvia doubling for rural France, to deliver a nimble, snappy little chiller, that eschews the Eyes Wide Shut-style opulence of Polanski’s film in favour of a sense of creeping dread and claustrophobia. In one of his final roles, Hauer pretty much phones in his performance (…or at least Skypes it) but still chills you to the bone when Desmond reveals the extent of his sickening crimes in a scene that unnerves precisely because of its restraint, focusing on the reactions of the brittle (and gloriously monickered) Tingley whose Rose makes a sympathetic, all too relatable, heroine who engages while still being a far from likable, spoilt little madam.

If the Devil really does have the best tunes, he’s probably not a huge fan of The Sonata’s Alexis Maingaud, perhaps The Sonata’s greatest failing ironically is in it’s score, the music that Marlowe has laboured to create is hardly Saint-Saëns’ Danse Macabre or even Malcolm Arnold’s Tam O’Shanter failing to raise chills or quicken the pulse or even raise a smile let alone summon the Devil. 

The music itself may be uninspiring but Desmond’s The Sonata is a dark little thriller that definitely hits the right notes.

Arrow Video Frighfest Review: The Sonata
3.5Overall Score
Reader Rating: (0 Votes)

About The Author