It is unfortunate that an eighties one hit wonder by Falco came out with the same name as the 1985 Best Picture Winner Amadeus. In my opinion, the word Amadeus is generally related to that tune that so easily sticks in your head which is pathetic for two reasons. The first reason is simply because that word should bring to mind Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The other reason is because it pushes the film Amadeus into the background. I went into Amadeus thinking the film was a joke, based on what I had heard about it, and was happily surprised when it was a brilliant film.
It is difficult to determine how accurate a current portrayal of Mozart’s life is considering nobody making the film could have ever met him, but this film painted Mozart in a very interesting light. Juxtaposing Mozart’s brilliance with his increasing madness, the story is told in flashback format. The film opens with elderly composer Antonio Salieri (F. Murray Abraham) attempting to kill himself. Moved to a mental hospital, Salieri is interviewed by a doctor. Trying to kill himself because Mozart’s compositions are remembered while his are not, Salieri recalls when him and Mozart were in their prime. Working for Emperor Joseph II (Jeffrey Jones), Salieri meets Mozart (Tom Hulce) when he is hired to write a symphony. Proving his brilliance and his ignorance of his brilliance, Mozart, within moments of meeting Salieri, takes one of Salieri’s new works and improves it in minutes. From that point on, the film follows Mozart’s career as Salieri attempts to compete with the brilliantly superior man.
Wild, rude and childish, Mozart acts like a spoiled child, knowing that his brilliance can allow him to do whatever he wants. Immediately pushing the envelope, Mozart begins to write a German Opera though most of his superiors believe that to be wildly inappropriate. When Emperor Joseph II backs Mozart’s decision it started Mozart’s life long string of composition output. As he continued to push the envelope, eventually composing an opera based on the tale of Figaro which had been banned from being performed. Mozart continued to grow more and more famous and Salieri continued to grow more and more jealous. Using his connections and the politics of performance, Salieri began to make sure that Mozart’s performances became failures though, seeing every one himself, he admitted they were pure brilliance.
Mozart continued to make a home in Vienna, bringing his wife Constanze Mozart (Elizabeth Berridge), who unconventionally tries to control everything, to live with him. A father’s boy at heart, Mozart’s father ends up visiting. Used to his son doing whatever he is told, Leopold Mozart (Roy Dotrice) is surprised when his son refuses to move back home with him. Leopold lives with Mozart and Constanze briefly until Mozart’s father and wife get into a fight and Leopold moves home. Shortly after returning home, Leopold dies, throwing Mozart into the depths of his madness. His music taking a dark turn, Mozart begins to work on his own projects and refuses anything that could make him money. Seeing the madness as a way to rid himself of Mozart, Solieri dresses in disguise and commissions Mozart to write a requiem for the dead, his own funeral. Mozart throws himself into the work, terrified of the specter-like being Solieri is pretending to be. The film culminates in a beautiful scene where Solieri volunteers to help Mozart, whose health is failing, to finish his final piece. Mozart creates music with his voice, speaking the score for the piece out loud while Solieri desperately tries to keep up. Even at the end, Mozart proves his superiority.
I have talked too long about the plot of the film, which is outstanding, but I want to mention some other amazing aspects that the films delves into. Solieri, a man who sees religion in music, struggles with his belief in God throughout the film. Solieri sees Mozart as a fool and cannot understand why God would give such a fool the gift to show the world God through his music. His entire belief in religion is shaken and destroyed by Mozart’s superiority over him. The performances in the film were outstanding, earning both Tom Hulce and H. Murray Abraham nominations for Best Actor. Abraham ended up winning the Oscar, a win that he deserved very much. Both Peter Shaffen, the film’s writer, and Milos Forman, the film’s director, were honored with their own Best Writing and Best Directing Oscars. The music in the film was also perfect, capitalizing on the use of classical music and filling the score with pieces from Mozart himself.
As far as Best Picture goes, the film went up against Places in the Heart, the Killing Fields, a Passage to India and a Soldier’s Story. I have not seen any of the other Best Picture nominees so I cannot compare them to Amadeus to determine if Amadeus should actually win but the film was certainly good enough to win. Directing, writing and acting were nearly perfect throughout the film, creating a stunningly beautiful and unique portrayal of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s life. As far as this being a well done film I give it a 4 out of 5 and as far as pure entertainment goes I also give it a 4 out of 5 ending with a total of 8 out of 10. Even if you’re not interested in Mozart, this film is worth seeing.