For the purpose of this review, I reviewed the widely available three hour R-rated “Director’s Cut” as opposed to the two hour and 40 minutes PG-rated version of the film. The reasoning being is that it is closer to Milos Forman’s vision and Peter Schaffer’s work.
Two musicians, both alike in musicality
In fair Vienna, where we begin our film
From opera’s blood to a final unity
There was never a tale of friend or foe
Like of Amadeus and Salieri from long ago
Amadeus, a classic tale of rivalry, murder, music and the rise and fall of one of the world’s most talented musicians. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is one of the most creative genius in music and a mad man of sound and operatic. His ideas are complex, his concepts a true work of art and his legacy beyond compare. This is why the film is so intriguing to be told from his competitor and confidant Antonio Salieri, played by F. Murray Abraham.
In 1823, Antonio Salieri (Abraham) screams and writhes with pain as he attempted suicide that he killed Mozart and he blames himself. Salieri is taken to the asylum as Father Vogler (Richard Frank) is prepare to hear what is Salieri’s confession of his murder. Turns out this confession is all about the tumultuous rivalry between him and Mozart (Tom Hulce), Mozart’s complex relationship with his father Leopald (Roy Dotrice) and wife Constanze (Elizabeth Berridge), the genius that was his operas and compositions, and the occasional moment of humor or two along the way. By the end of the tale of him and Mozart, it is up to the audience to decide if his confession of murder is justified or a madman obsessed with his rival’s lifestyle.
For a tremendous three hours of length, Amadeus does something few epics can do and that is never get boring or tiresome. It’s a brilliant film that always keeps the pace going and pique the audiences interests in the world of Mozart. The direction by Milos Forman is essential to the creation from capturing the bright spots of Mozart’s genius in gorgeous shots in Vienna and the imagery captured in the operas shown. There are moments Forman captures imagery quite well, including the appearance of Mozart’s father with the black faced costume and the stunning set work and design throughout. It as if Forman hopped in a time machine and just went back to film it on location. There is triumph within the direction.
The performances are what truly make this film become a classic. The rivalry between Salieri and Mozart is astounding with Abraham becoming fully immersed in role. He gives Salieri a weight to him and fully makes him human. Salieri has given up practically everything to be successful and is torn between being enraged by Mozart’s genius or embrace what he is. There is stillhope within him, but the defeat toward the end is still sound, even if he sees Mozart’s death as a bit of victory. Even in older makeup as Salieri in the asylum, the audience gets the feeling he has experienced everything firsthand and allows the audience to believe every word he has.
Hulce is being a delightful carefree brat in his role. He plays Mozart as a rock star, constantly chasing women, drinking and partying, yet there is a human emotion behind him. He is geninunely hurt when the Emperor Joseph II (Jefferey Jones in a slightly hammy performance) brushes his ideas for The Marriage of Figaro aside and physically distraught when the Masked Figure gives him the Requiem to write alongside The Magic Flute. The most powerful moment is the handling of his father’s disapproval and the death of him as well. Hulce is upset and seems to never live up to the standards of his father’s wishes.
The story is more than just the rivalry at this point and about two men who never could live up to there potential. Salieri cannot live to be on the same pedestal that Mozart is put on and must wander in his own mediocrity and jealously for the rest of his being. Mozart can never go beyond being a genius fighting for money and getting the respect he earned, only to end up dying and being buried is a pauper’s mass grave, which is a theoretical event, but justifies the story at hand. It’s a remarkable film that is set up for repeated viewing to dive deeper into the lingering undertones the film carries.
Lastly, the use of the musical works of Salieri and Mozart is phenomenal. They add the extra layer to make this film great. The descriptions of music by Salieri are painted in auditory form as he rambles and the dark moments of the film are highlighted by the powerful works and choirs ringing out. It’s masterful in its simplicity of relying on the music that made the composer famous, but given grandiose heights of being used at the right moments to keep the tension building within the story. It was right of the production team to use the works instead of an original score as it would have harmed the story the film was trying to convey.
Amadeus is a rarity in just how perfect a film can be. There is not a complaint I had throughout and appreciated every moment of the film. It is a masterpiece that must be enjoyed, appreciated and studied for future generations of filmmakers to see what can be done with cinema. From top to bottom, this is one of the greatest films I have finally seen…and it only took my girlfriend two years of convincing to watch her favorite film. Boy, was I an idiot for not listening at first?
Next week, the second of my biggest regrets of films I haven’t watched before is finally being covered. It’s shocking to say that even at my college age, I have never seen the tale of young Benjamin Braddock and his affair with Mrs. Robinson. Film A Week takes a look at The Graduate.