Filmmakers who attempt biopics -- lives of the great and near-great -- face a daunting task. Great creative souls are not like you and me. Their lives are usually filled with the kind of ambition, arrogance, dedication to art (and themselves), and personal tics that make them poor dinner companions. But anyone setting out to make a movie -- an inherently popular medium -- will soon feel pressured to fashion characters with whom we can sympathize, even identify. Hence the weaknesses in "Bride of the Wind."
Alma Mahler Gropius Werfel either married, or had affairs with, half the great creative men of early 20c. Vienna (thank you, Tom Lehrer!) What did she have that they all wanted? To find out, you'll have to look elsewhere. This film's Alma never reveals the passion, intelligence, and wit that got her Gustav and Walter and Franz. Instead, the movie implies that she gets Mahler interested in her by making a few insulting (and shallow) remarks about his music. When their relationship begins to cool, it's because, among other things, he's been forgetting her birthday.
Mahler himself comes off as an odd combination of diffidence and arrogance; onscreen he displays little of the legendary manic energy and hyperemotive behavior that made his performances at the Court Opera seem revolutionary. I guess the director wanted to stress, in conventional screenplay terms, that he was an Older Man. Even the music he conducts onscreen is taken at a geriatric pace, slower than any of the great recordings of those scores.
Things pick up once Alma moves on to Gropius, and especially when she takes up with Kokoschka and Werfel. Yet a kind of dusty solemnity continues to hang over the proceedings, aided by the beautiful but underlit settings and some very pedestrian dialogue. Renee Fleming fans will enjoy the last scene, and so will folks who enjoy parodies of "American Graffiti."
For music aficionados only: The guy with the bald head in several scenes is Arnold Schoenberg, a genius whose wildly unconventional music helped form the basis of 20c. classical style. Unless I fell asleep (and I may have), he doesn't get to utter a single word. I consider that symptomatic of the whole movie's effort to turn these tortured souls into Ordinary People.