Claiming to have killed the legendary Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Tom Hulce), Antonio Salieri (F. Murray Abraham) recollects to a priest on his dealings with the composer. He was court composer to Emperor Joseph II when he first meets him. The Emperor (Jeffrey Jones) was a huge advocate for the arts and sought out Mozart for his skills, commissioning him to write an opera in German (oh the horror) instead of Italian. Mozart is childish and irritating, but brilliant, leaving Salieri in amazement of his genius. He manipulates Mozart’s daddy issues and his guilt over being an imperfect son to drive him mad into a bout of ill-health which ultimately led to his death.
F. Murray Abraham (Homeland) plays Salieri. He’s a hardworking but average composer driven potty by the arrival a young talent who is as vulgar as he is genius, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Hulce) during one of Austria’s most political times. Annoyingly, Hulce’s portrayal is historically accurate, or so I’ve been led to believe, oft described by historians as eccentric and mad. And that laugh that he does throughout the movie may be annoying, but it’s how he was… or so they say. Milos Forman’s film is entertaining, epic, eclectic and it’s provoked me into looking into Mozart as more than just artist, but as a man, a historical figure and an unconscious political activist too.
This is the film of Sarieli’s life, in which Mozart is pivotal. Told in flashbacks starting in 1822, an elderly Salieri is telling a priest about his life as a young man. The priest is intrigued by this tale, a story where Salieri tells of his childhood in Italy and a father who didn’t care for the arts. And how he celebrated when his father finally died. He tells of his first encounter with the dirty-minded yet intelligent Mozart. He tells the priest that he’d grown to despise God for giving him a love for music but with not genius skill like Mozart. Mozart was sent to mock him and had vowed to kill Mozart to spite God and make him an enemy, and in my view, there is a little beauty in its ugliness.
I love how the movie is a brilliant artistic expression of film for film’s sake and not just another Oscar-winning movie that was made to sell cinema tickets. Its representation of art is charmingly beautiful. It’s a wonderful depiction of every artist’s nightmare, clients who don’t want to pay for your craft but are willing enough to reap what you yield for free. As the film plods along with its great pacing, it shows the misery of the human condition but it also builds a shrine to life with that epic musical score. The score sets atmosphere, and that’s not just in Mozart’s performances. The film celebrates humanity, and it’s a timeless testament that we can still use today in 2017.
Quite honestly, I did not care for Mozart the character for the first hour. I cared for his genius as a musician, composer and an artist. For the whole movie, he seemed like an asshole. But once you get used to his oddness, you get to like him, even that very memorable high-pitched scream of a laugh. Hulce gives a brilliantly irritating performance as Mozart but it’s Abraham who stole the show, giving a subtly great performance as Salieri. Winning eight Oscars in 1985, this might be one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. It just sucks that I will never have the chance to see this movie on a massive IMAX screen with the score flooding the room. Music to my ears indeed!
Shot in Prague, Amadeus is another one of those movies that makes me want to travel the world. The Godfather and The Godfather Part II are two more movies that have epic on-location filming. It might just be Europe being the continent of every artist’s dreams. With the acting, cinematography, score and the general grandeur of the picture, Amadeus is the film of my dreams. The score is one of the best I’ve heard in recent years and my only problem with this film is the personality of Mozart. That’s down to character and not acting. The laugh is irritating for the first hour or so but once you get used to it, all goes swimmingly. It’s uncanny to Fantastic Beasts’ Kowalski.
From the acting to the score to the cinematography to everything else, Amadeus is a worthy eight-time Oscar-winner, including Best Picture, and it’s certainly one I’m going to watch again and again in the future.
Forman directs the symphonies of Apollo, and I can’t fault his composition