Archive for July 17, 2011

AMADEUS, Milos Forman (1984)

Posted in Biopic, Drama with tags , , , on July 17, 2011 by Toi Brownstone

Unable to  count the times I’ve seen this film nor the places where I’ve seen it, I just can tell you they’ve been many.

Years passing, I’m more aware of the movie genres I prefer, and period ones are not my favorites, to be honest, although got to admit, I really like some on them. Amadeus is the clearest example.

I’m a music lover, and can appreciate classical stuff, and even enjoy some operas, but I seldom listen to any, prefer rock or folk music, I find it more direct and make me feel more alive. Still, I’ve loved Mozart’s The Magic Flute since I was a kid.

The story of Amadeus is seen from Salieri’s (F. Murray Abraham) experience, which gives a more personal, subjective and moody tone to it. Salieri was the other composer working for the king in Vienna, quite established, he was always left aside, eclipsed by the born nature talent of his colleague Mozart (Tom Hulce), something he’s never able to accept nor overcome, turning his frustration into hatred towards God and the musician, and consequently moving him to focus on humiliating and destroy his enemy’s reputation and life.

Thus, through the eyes of Salieri, rise, decline and fall of Mozart are depicted in this film.

Milos Forman really found the perfect combination to tell us a history, which without Salieri’s presence, probably would had failed straight away.

The starting point is simply awesome. Salieri tries to kill himself cutting his throat unsuccessfully and he’s immediately checked-in into an asylum. Once there, as no therapists really existed, the closest option to release all his frustration and justify why he wanted to die so badly, was by means of confession, to a poor young priest.

Following the logic timeline, there are some interruptions by the narrator, so the most remarkable moments in Mozart’s life, witnessed by the envious composer, are detailed, avoiding extra expendable stuff.

Salieri shows a party time young composer, who doesn’t care much about money, and loves women, booze and fun. Trespassing royal etiquette constantly, the king seems to to worry about much, something that a straight and religious person such as Salieri, cannot stand.

The composer eventually puts an end to his Christian worship, unable to understand why God does not punish Mozart for his actions, nor helps him to get the grace of the king. At this point, Salieri will constantly pulling the strings to defeat Mozart and drive him to failure, by means of cheating, spying and a key element for putting his revenge into work, the Achilles’ heel of Wolfie: his father.

Relationship between father and son had never been a tender one. Leopold (Roy Dotrice), was a strong character, who brought up Wolfgang in a very strict and disciplined way. Thus in Vienna, when the young composer was away from his father’s influence started enjoying pleasures of life, self-indulging. Once Leopold settles with his son and his small family, arguments among him and his daughter in law, Constanze, become regular, affecting Wolfie tremendously.

Salieri, observing, calculating and analyzing Mozart’s situation, keeps waiting, until the piece is ready to be hunted.

And eventually this moment arrives with the death of Leopold Mozart. Banned from the Royal court, Wolfie’s financial situation is as bad as his deteriorated physical condition, and needs money badly. His so called friend, Emanuel Shickaneder, requests him  to compose an opera for middle-low class, a singspiel, combining singing and spoken parts, in exchange for few money, he’ll receive payment after the release of the work.

At this point, Salieri starts the machine for his revenge, and dressed in black with a sinister and threatening mask, same outfit he saw Leopold wearing at a mask party, and acquainted with all the familiar situation, thanks to a maid he contracted for spying the Mozarts, knocks at the door entrusting him the task of writing a mass for a death person, a requiem. No need to say, this assignment will become an obsession.

And this is the part I love most, as a consequence of all the envy that moves Salieri to become a worthless human being.

Parents are more influent over their children than we think, and many childhood traumas mark our personalities in such way as to affect personal relationships and our daily living. As depicted in the film, Leopold had a strong personality, characterized by righteousness and discipline, demanding too much from his son. Obviously the father figure became an obsession when Mozart’s physical and mental condition was at stake. Seems that, on one hand, Wolfie feared his father, and on the other, he was constantly seeking for his approval. The Requiem, was a torture and some sort of penitence act to be forgiven by his dead father, a burden he wasn’t able to face and overcome, an eventually meant his own death.

Regarding Salieri, I was discussing on his behavior with a friend just today. He said somehow he understood his behavior as an act of frustration. A straight hard working man, trying his utmost to be talented and recognized publicly in Vienna, whose main obstacle in achieving his goals is a frivolous young Mozart, with amazing skills and such amazing ability to create on the go, as to catch everyone’s eye. Needless to say, the composer was sick of this man and lost his faith in God, not understanding such injustice. Once this accepted, thanks to the lack of discipline of Mozart, Salieri starts a game of discrediting him subtly in the eyes of the king, humiliating and blackmailing Constanze, and eventually driving the genius to such exhaustion  and insanity as to force him to work in his deathbed. Despite all his efforts to get some satisfaction with all this, Salieri will end up his days frustrated for not getting the satisfaction he was looking for so badly. Guess living with such heavy burden on your back for the rest of your days must not be the best for your state of mind.

Amadeus is a story of admiration turned into envy, frustration, vengeance and regret. The way events follow, you start feeling pity for Salieri, and in the end you finish sympathizing with poor Wolfie, so focused on pleasing his dead father as to being unable to realize someone, closer than he could ever imagine, was manipulating his life and fate to fatal consequences.

Plot and its development are simply perfect, performance of F. Murray Abraham is impressive, musical part outstanding…I only got positive words for this film. Two thumbs up for Amadeus.