The occult thriller The Sonata features one of Rutger Hauer’s final film performances, in a limited but central role that, fittingly, serves as a reminder of the lingering gravity that Hauer was so often able to bring to even his smallest moments on-screen.
Here, the late, much-loved Dutch actor plays Richard Marlowe, a composer of almost mythical renown, who’s spent decades in self-imposed exile at his sprawling Gothic estate in the French countryside. In the film’s opening sequence, shot entirely in eerie POV, he adds the final notes to the violin sonata he’s spent years laboring over, locks the sheet music in a desk drawer, and then proceeds to commit suicide in particularly garish fashion.
“She discovers his final sonata, annotated with arcane symbols…on the path toward uncovering dark supernatural secrets…”
Thus, the character is more spoken-about than seen as director Andrew Desmond’s film plays out, but – like the imposing, larger-than-life portrait of Marlowe that hangs above the composer’s fireplace–his presence and, in turn, Hauer’s, looms large throughout.
Desmond, who co-wrote The Sonata with Arthur Morin, effectively uses the air of mystery that surrounds Marlowe and his final composition to sustain the film’s slow-paced but stately and involving first half. The composer’s centuries-old mansion and its contents are bequeathed to his long-estranged daughter Rose (Freya Tingley), a young violin virtuoso who’s being groomed for stardom (or, at least, the classical-music version of it) by her fatherly but opportunistic agent Charles (Simon Akbarian). Charles withholds from Rose the grisly circumstances of her father’s death, and it’s with little knowledge of Marlowe’s eccentricities – or of the grim rumors shared about him among the local townsfolk – that Rose sets about investigating the property and its famous but enigmatic former resident. Before long, she discovers his final sonata, annotated with arcane symbols that she’s unable to decipher; that, and some brief but ominous hallucinations (or are they?), set her on the path toward uncovering the dark supernatural secrets of her father’s life’s work.
"…She discovers his final sonata, annotated with arcane symbols that she's unable to decipher; that, and some brief but ominous hallucinations, set her on the path toward uncovering the dark supernatural secrets of her father's life's work."