Written by Peter Shaffer
Directed by Milos Forman
I confess that the year I graduated high school I probably wasn’t paying all that much attention to what I would term the more “cerebral” films which were released. I was laughing with my fellow graduates at offerings such as Bachelor Party or cringing at C.H.U.D. an. it’s commercials I still recall to this day. A film such as Amadeus simply didn’t make it onto my radar.
Twenty-two years later, I finally managed to view the film for the first time and I was stunned that I hadn’t seen it before now. I guess there’s something about being a teenager and being more concerned about the next installment of the Indiana Jones series.
Amadeus is told as a flashback by rival composer Antonio Salieri (portrayed by F. Murray Abraham) after he is confined to an asylum in the later years of his life. He tells of his intense jealousy and obsession with the man he sees as a rival, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (portrayed by Tom Hulce). Salieri claimed to have killed Mozart through poisoning, a claim that has never been proven to be true nor false. The story is from Salieri’s point of view, so that might color the story somewhat, but it is still a brilliant story of two musicians, one a genius and the other always in his shadow.
Mozart was a “pop” musician before they knew what that was. He was attached to the court in Salzburg and created an impressive volume of work. The problems facing the musicians of that time were much the same as I’ve heard from musicians of today, as the palace “A&R man” decimates his music a la Richard Marx’s “Don’t Mean Nothin’”:
The producer says, “let me change a line or two”
And a little bit of something can look awfully good to you And you want to scream, but you gotta keep it all inside. When you’re trying to make a living,
There ain’t no such thing as pride…
This is also seen when he is screamed at for “too many notes” in the opera he has composed. It is a brilliant piece of work that goes over the head of those around him who must find something, anything to criticize as if it somehow makes them better than him. Musicians were expected to compose on demand and satisfy whatever the whims were of their current patron, be it the Royal Court or other members of the aristocracy.
Tom Hulce is brilliant. His portrayal of Mozart as he goes through what would seem on the surface to be a charmed life is incredible. He makes all the facets of Mozart believable, from the public to the private side. He portrays Mozart as conceited, juvenile, rude, and loud – all of the characteristics which seem to drive Salieri crazy. Mozart doesn’t conform to society’s rules and seems all the more embraced by it.
F, Murray Abraham won an Oscar for his portrayal of Salieri and rightfully so. While Hulce might have had more fun with the impetuousness and unrestrained portrayal of Mozart, Abraham had a lot more to deal with. Right from the start, he knows Mozart has the talent he will never have, and the intensity of Salieri’s feelings toward the man he considers a rival is never overt, but Abraham pulls it off. Mozart never realized how Salieri feels about him, but viewers of the film sure do.
Amadeus is filmed beautifully. I loved the lighting as it came across as more natural in the settings used from the actual places Mozart once roamed in Austria. Overall the cinematography is stunning and worth appreciating in its own right. Of course, the music is terrific. Although I never took any formal music courses in his music, it’s easy to feel an appreciation for the brilliance of his work as well as its volume. It’s performed in the film by Academy of St. Martin in the Fields and they do a brilliant job.
Credit also goes to Director Milos Forman. He brought together a cast of virtual unknowns at the time and resisted the urge to use a big-name orchestra. The combination came together under his direction quite well. I think well-known actors would have taken away from the production rather than adding to it.
If you don’t think you’d like a movie like this, I urge you to give it a try. I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would. The acting is terrific, the story is interesting ad surprisingly relates well to the music business today. The performances by the two leads are outstanding.
” Cast & Crew Biographies
” Behind the Scenes
” Musical Notes
” Salieri and Mozart
” A Mozart Chronology
” Alternate Music-Only Track
” Theatrical Trailer
Categories: Movie Reviews