Director: Miloš Forman
Starring: F. Murray Abraham, Tom Hulce, Elizabeth Berridge
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
Rated: R (For some brief nudity)
I can only imagine that it must have been a small miracle that “Amadeus” was made into a movie at all. Released during the MTV Generation, who thought that anyone would want to watch a movie about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart? When released in 1984 director Miloš Forman remembered how nervous he was when the movie was being released. He was so nervous of the reception of the film that he even cut twenty minutes of the film so as not to test the audience's patience too long. Thankfully audiences could tell that “Amadeus” was something special and the movie became a huge hit. So much so that now more than twenty years later, Forman was able to restore the film to its original cut.
For years the story has been criticized by historians for being historically inaccurate. Maybe they are right when they say “Amadeus,” which portrays a fictionalized rivalry between famed composers Antonio Salieri (F. Murray Abraham) and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Tom Hulce) is not historically accurate. Indeed, I've read enough to suggest that this film is more fiction than fact. But as a movie lover and film critic I'm not looking for historical accuracy unless I'm watching a documentary. When I watch a film I'm reviewing it based on emotion, scale, and intimacy. “Amadeus” is one of the best movies that contain all three of these elements.
The story revolves around an aged Salieri, who has been committed to a mental asylum after attempting suicide. There a young priest speaks to the aging man, asking him to confess his sins to God and seek forgiveness. Salieri tells his story but is not interested in forgiveness or God. He used to be the most famous composer in the world. At a young age he wanted to write beautiful music to praise God. One day though he hears music that is so beautiful that is must be from God himself. This music was written by a young man named Mozart, who is actually a vulgar, perverted man with an annoying laugh. Oh, but what music he writes. Not only does he write wonderful music, but he does it effortlessly.
His original music sheets don't even have any corrections on them. They are written perfectly without error. The brilliance in the screenplay is that it properly conveys these facts even if the viewer is unfamiliar with how music is written. Mainly because Salieri tells us through narration how brilliant his music is. So brilliant that he both loves Mozart's music and hates it. After all, it was his desire to write powerful music, and now that wonderful music comes from a vulgar child. In his mind, God is mocking him. Thus he plans to kill Mozart. But first, he will hire Mozart to compose a piece for him, which he will then steal for himself and play at Mozart's funeral.
This is where some of the fact and fiction gets mixed up a bit, for there is no real record that Salieri ever planned to murder Mozart. This does lead for some great drama though, as we watch this man plot to kill his biggest rival while secretly loving every piece of music he writes. One of the film's most memorable scenes involves Salieri helping Mozart write his final musical piece on his death bed. He strains and struggles to get one more piece of music he can love and hate out of Mozart before he dies an untimely death. The first time I viewed “Amadeus” was in its original, PG rated version. I was blown away by it and it left a lasting impression on me.
The new director's cut is about twenty minutes longer and now has an R rating. While most of the scenes were easy to lose, at least one scene involving Mozart's wife Constanze (Elizabeth Berridge) trying to get her husband a job adds some much needed depth to the character that wasn't present in the original cut. Had the movie been originally released with this scene, she might have been able to share in some of the Oscar love her co-actors basked in that year. Though many people assumed that the title of the film is after Mozart's middle name this is not entirely correct.
The word Amadeus is a Latin word that means “God's love.” The overall theme that God loves Mozart more than Salieri is the underlying theme of this film. It is the idea that drives Salieri to hate and love the man he's planning to kill. Miloš Forman explained that when he made “Amadeus” he made certain that not a single note of Mozart's music has been changed or altered. While he was very serious about this aspect of the film, it appears that some of the notes in Salieri's music were altered for dramatic purposes. Apparently, God is still mocking him.
Parents, there is some mild language and some nudity, but otherwise isn't too terrible. Recommended for ages 15 and up.