Watch | 25. May 2020

Bloody Daughter - How To Survive An Ingenious Mother

I used to play the piano with the typical attitude of a teenage girl with mediocre talents: half hearted, disciplined by a controlling tiger-mom and with a slight crush on my teacher. Mr Damian was actually the one who told me about this young pianist from Yugoslavia, who would play Chopin like no one else before: Ivo Pogorelich became famous overnight in 1980 when he would be excluded from awards at the Warshaw Chopin competition, and some very famous members of the jury left the event, because, as his greatest fan Martha Argerich put it, "they just do not get how genius he is."

For me Martha Argerich belonged to a different generation, with her strong features and heart headed opinions, she seemed to be the role model of feminist self confidence, whereas Ivo Pogorelich acted more like a pop-star, looking like the love child of Mick Jagger and Rudolf Nurejew.

Argerich was that former wunderkind from Argentina who moved to Vienna with her family to learn form Friedrich Gulda how to bring her art to perfection, having started to play Beethoven sonatas before she turned four years old. Now, all of a sudden, she seemed to belong to another generation, one before ours (mine and Ivo´s) even though she was famous for her emotional way of performing, travelling the world, getting married and divorced and having younger lovers - a very eccentric woman who played with every great conductor of her times.

I was never really into her - and I am even less since I watched the documentary "Bloody Daughter" that Argerich´s second child Stephanie produced about her famous mother some five years ago.

This very intimate movie is full of private footage. The young Stephanie started to film when her mother brought back a precious video camera from one of her tours through Japan. Together with her older sister Annie from another father, living wit her mother and her entourage of young musicians, nannies and housekeepers, the children's life was different from any other childhood they knew.

Even when her equally eccentric grandmother joined them and later also another much older sister whom Argerich had left behind in foster care after her first marriage failed, Stephanie grew up without any proper school education; there was a lot of creative freedom instead and the inspirational environment of singing and dancing and going on tour, staying up with her mother until she went to bed in the wee hours.

Seeing her father only once or twice a year for some days, Stephen Kovacevich, a famous Beethoven interpret himself, became more of a phantom to her than a caregiver. He is the one who called her his "bloody daughter", among all the sons he got with other women. In one of the most touching sequences, Stephanie starts to cry when it turns out, neither her mother nor her father cared about her birthing certificate and her legal status is uncertain until now. Her father turns several boxes and drawers upside down, then simply shrugs his shoulders, like, come on, who cares about stuff like this...

Other scenes, like watching mother and daughter while Stephanie is giving birth to her second child, later following the whole quartet of Martha, Lyda, Annie and Stephanie to a picnic situation for an open-air pedicure session leaves the beholder with mixed feelings.

You can not help but ask yourself: Should anyone as self-focused as Martha Argerich and her various similar self-focused husbands have children at all?

But then again: You might watch the movie as a strong statement against helicopter parenting - didn't those girls just turn out fine?