Staring: F. Murray Abraham, Tom Hulce, Elizabeth Berridge, Roy Dotrice, Jeffrey Jones, Simon Callow
Directed by: Milos Forman
Written By: Peter Shaffer
Rating: R (US) Running Time: 2 hr 40 min
Peter Shaffer adapts his Broadway hit for the big screen, and director Milos Forman brings this expertly together to tell a truly absorbing tale about two tortured souls. Mozart’s (Tom Hulce) and Antonio Salieri’s (F. Murray Abraham). The film presents a fantastical theory about the demise of arguably the best classical composer the world has ever known. A tale told by his rival Salieri, played to Oscar-winning perfecting by F. Murray Abraham.
Salieri’s entire life is built around his love of music, and his faith in God. He believes his path in life is guided by that faith, and wants nothing less than to achieve immortality through his music. He believes his faith has rewarded him with a wealthy lifestyle, and the position of Court Composer to the Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II. He even credits God for the death of his father, which subsequently allowed him to study music. Salieri is well respected, talented and feels his faith has been rewarded. That is until he meets Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Mozart is everything Salieri isn’t. A loud, brash and vulgar man-child, and a musical prodigy. As Salieri sees it, Mozart has been chosen by God and speaks through him with his music, and as Mozart arrogantly insults fellow composers and acts like a spoiled brat, Salieri questions and then ultimately rejects God and vows to destroy his creation.
Amadeus the movie isn’t trying to be historically accurate, but present a story about faith, destiny and jealousy, and its success or failure rests almost entirely on the shoulders of F. Murray Abraham’s performance. Fortunately, Abraham is more than up to the task and this is a performance for the ages, and very deserving of the large collection of awards it received. Add to that another great (and Oscar nominated) performance from Tom Hulce, Peter Shaffer’s moving script, and Milos Forman’s assured direction, and Amadeus is as close to perfect as a movie can get in my opinion. It expertly tells a powerful story, while also celebrating the music of one of the greatest composers to world has ever known.
If you appreciate Mozart’s music, or love films with strong leading performances then this is a must see. The directors cut runs nearly three hours long, and to be honest, I thought most of the added footage wasn’t really necessary. There is however one scene I wish they had included in the original theatrical release.
Constanze Mozart (Elizabeth Berridge) finds Salieri asleep in Mozart’s bedroom. He wakes, and she gets very irritated with him and asks him to leave. When I saw the original version of this film, I always thought her anger towards him seemed a little out of place. Now that I have seen the directors cut, that scene works better because a new moment earlier in the story adds an extra dimension to the relationship between these two characters. In this added scene, Salieri promises Mozart will receive a lucrative teaching position if she sleeps with him. Mozart and Constanze are desperate for money, so she does return to Salieri’s home and takes her clothes off. Salieri then acts discussed with her, and has her thrown out.
I have included a link below that describes all the addition footage added in the directors cut in case you are interested.
Filmed in Prague, this film looks amazing, and if a local theater were screening this film you should certainly try to catch this on the big screen. At home, a HD viewing over your home theater system would be ideal. If you do watch this on anything smaller, at least wear a decent set of headphones so you can appreciate all the great music.
My favorite part of the film is when Mozart dictates the last parts of his requiem mass to Salieri. Mozart describes the many layers to his score, and it’s fascinating to hear the separate components of his work come together.
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