Mozart and the Whale
April 21, 2006
Based on a 1995 Los Angeles Times story, Mozart and the Whale is a movie that covers ground previously best known from Rain Man. Like the Dustin Hoffman/Tom Cruise Best Picture winner, this film tells a story about the impact of autism on an oddly matched duo. Whereas Hoffman's Ray Babbitt suffers from a more severe form of autism, the principal characters in this production have a condition known as Asperger's Syndrome.
Named for the German doctor who first described the syndrome, Hans Asperger, this form of autism is exhibited in a much more subtle fashion. Autism.org describes the symptoms of this particular condition as:
lucid speech before age 4 years; grammar and vocabulary are usually very good
speech is sometimes stilted and repetitive
voice tends to be flat and emotionless
conversations revolve around self
obsessed with complex topics, such as patterns, weather, music, history, etc.
often described as eccentric
I.Q.'s fall along the full spectrum, but many are in the above normal range in verbal ability and in the below average range in performance abilities.
many have dyslexia, writing problems, and difficulty with mathematics
lack common sense
concrete thinking (versus abstract)
movements tend to be clumsy and awkward
odd forms of self-stimulatory behavior
sensory problems appear not to be as dramatic as those with other forms of autism
socially aware but displays inappropriate reciprocal interaction
What is unusual about Mozart and the Whale is that multiple characters have the Asperger's Syndrome condition. The leads played by Josh Hartnett and Radha Mitchell will both portray functional adults who suffer from it. Hartnett's character is a successful mathematician who falls in love with Mitchell's character, a music/art savant. The duo's feelings for each other prove secondary to the more problematic issue they face with communication. The condition they both share limits their ability to relate to one another, causing repeated frustration and heartache.
Mozart and the Whale is a personal project for Hartnett. The A-List star turned down a three picture deal for Superman in order to play more intriguing roles such as this one. His presence on the project is described by script author Ron Bass as being the driving force in the production getting filmed. In order to prepare for the part, Hartnett attended autistic group meetings in order to better understand the mechanics of the condition. (David Mumpower/BOP)