This is not a musical about the legendary Mozart, the man who brought the world the ‘divine’ operas The Magic Flute, The Marriage of Figaro, and Don Giovanni, among others, but which are recreated in part in Amadeus (1984).
I know that some people liked the musical episodes in this film more than the story, but I am not in that camp. I appreciated the music, but enjoyed the story, the production and performances more.
It is no straightforward, sentimentalized bio-pic of the musical genius, who wrote his first symphony at age five (a fact which I forever remember in the extended remix of Falco’s Rock Me Amadeus.). Perhaps some inspiration could be leveraged from his life, but not in this film.
Amadeus is fiction, based on the play by Anthony Shaffer, that takes liberties about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and imagines his descent at the hands of another Austrian composer, who in history perhaps had a good relationship with Mozart.
This man, Salieri, is fictionalized as a rival in the film, who appears friendly and well-mannered but seethes with jealousy at Mozart’s better abilities and gifts in music.
Salieri was also disillusioned by Mozart because of his appetite for the seamier side of life, which according to this film was Mozart’s crude, rude and unconventional side, but Mozart’s music held a rare purity of sound, beauty, and skill, which came naturally to Mozart, a fact that confused and infuriated Salieri.
Salieri plotted Mozart’s downfall in a silently brooding and calculated effort to swipe the man of genius from his pedestal and put this “trained monkey” in his place.
Cold hearted snake Salieri was, his obsession to be the best consumed him though he would never reach Mozart’s heights. His confession to a priest comes after his suicide attempt, because of his guilt at doing the unthinkable, to rid the world of Mozart and another human being.
Yet his music is what Salieri connects with. It is flawless and remarkably skilled yet triggers Salieri’s base instincts, instincts which have nothing to do with Mozart’s music, but with Salieri’s nature.
In the end, from a bird’s eye view, God who bestows the gifts has no favorites.
This was my first serious film that I really appreciated—so have a special place in my heart for it.
Salieri’s (F. Murray Abraham) confession of jealousy and revenge to a Catholic priest frames the drama. It takes a while for Salieri to unleash his “demons”—in a sophisticated plot to kill Mozart (Tom Hulce) involving the ‘ghostly’ presence of Mozart’s overbearing father and the naïve complicity of Mozart’s wife (Elizabeth Berridge) who is susceptible to Salieri’s good manners.
Salieri’s passions had been simmering underneath for a good hour-and-so into the film during which Amadeus may be faulted at being too literary minded. However, Amadeus works, and production values and musical episodes are done to the hilt.
Revised version, original published Entertainmentnutz.com, 2000. Amadeus (1984) ****½ Starring: F. Murray Abraham, Tom Hulce, Elizabeth Berridge. Director: Milos Forman.