Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The name is iconic and recognized both domestically and internationally throughout the centuries. Composer, show man, prodigy… drunk, womanizer, crass. Any and all words can be and have been used to describe one of the greatest classic composers the world has ever known. All words are also suited in describing the mad genius whose musical compositions came so effortlessly, as if taking dictation in class from his instructor. The untold story of Mozart was the subject of a major motion picture that garnered recognition from critics and audiences alike as well as winning eight Academy Awards including Best Picture in 1985. This little introduction leads me to my current topic: MY FILM RECOMMENDATION OF THE MONTH: AMADEUS.
FLASHBACK: THE EARLY 1980sIt is vastly inconceivable to remotely comprehend the notion that this motion picture is celebrating its 30th anniversary from its original release on September 23, 1984! Ah, yes… good ol’ 1984. The once futuristic title of George Orwell’s novel was now a very realistic year bountiful with entertainment on the silver screen. The year 1984 gave us such memorable films like: GREMLINS, GHOSTBUSTERS, PURPLE RAIN, BEVERLY HILLS COP, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, THE KARATE KID, THE TERMINATOR, FOOTLOOSE, THE NEVERENDING STORY, ROMANCING THE STONE, INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM, SIXTEEN CANDLES, REVENGE OF THE NERDS, RED DAWN and THIS IS SPINAL TAP… this was only the tip of the iceberg in title recognition and they all came out within one single year and all celebrating their respectable 30th as well.
|The real Mozart|
|Mark Hamill as Mozart|
I still remember the black and white photo that showed Hamill dressed in his best mid- 18th century wardrobe sitting next to the harpsichord looking young and enthused. I immediately devoured the article about the play and came to find out that it was the telling of Mozart’s life through music and dramatic interpretation. Information was scarce back in the 80s with no internet to gather additional articles. I would have to wait and see if this production might come to my nearby Los Angeles' stages; again, using limited resources for updates. The show slipped through my fingers.
The light had not dimmed just yet, for here I was, as an anxious 16 year old gobbling up ghosts and gremlins that Summer, to surprisingly be treated to the early Fall’s submission of award- worthy quality films… the film adaption of the play I had read about just a few years ago: AMADEUS was now a major motion picture event!STORY SYNOPSIS
The tale of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Tom Hulce) is told through the confessional narration of Italian- born composer, Antonio Salieri (F. Murray Abraham) who weaves his tale to a visiting priest (Herman Meckler) while being confined within an institute after a failed suicide attempt. The subject of the talk was that Salieri pled forgiveness for killing Mozart.
|F. Murray Abraham as older Salieri|
Now an old man, Salieri began his story when Mozart was a child prodigy. Having been personally tutored and trained to read and play several classical musical instruments by his father, Leopold Mozart (Roy Dotrice), Wolfgang began writing music at the age of 6 and was composing symphonies and operas at the age of 12. Salieri, in the meantime, was just a few years older than Mozart and was still playing with his fellow street companions, regretted his father’s unsupportive attitude in Salieri’s musical interest. He emulated the idea that Mozart had become famous at such an early age and received mentorship by his father, touring throughout the country and having the honor of performing for royalty. After the death of Salieri’s father, he quickly moved to Vienna and began his musical education. Becoming a young adult, he constantly prayed to God to bless him with talent in His honor and requested success in the compositions he would write. Mozart, in the meantime, had already grown into his own popularity and conducted numerous public and requested performances that showcased his music.
|... Mozart (Tom Hulce) for the first time|
At that moment, the boorish young man rocked Salieri’s senses as he stated that HIS music had begun without his presence! THIS was Mozart! Salieri couldn’t believe his eyes as his perception of the talented composer was shattered by the reality of the imbecile before him.
It was shortly after this encounter that Salieri elected to renounce his belief in God. How could He waste such precious gifts on someone who didn’t deserve or appreciate them? It was at that moment that Salieri waged a bitter war against both God and Mozart… neither deserved the attention or respect from him. He would do everything within his power to befriend and ruin Mozart personally.
|Emperor (Jeffery Jones)|
|A young Salieri (Abraham)|
|Constanze Mozart (Elizabeth Berridge)|
|Leopold (Roy Doltrice)|
Mozart had taken on more musical commissions than he could handle, money was becoming scarce due to his frivolous spending and lack of proper financial savings. The drinking was constant and the late nights out were now a routine procedure as he would sneak out once all were asleep. The balancing act of his actions would finally crash upon the notification that his father, Leopold, had suddenly passed away! This was an extremely devastating blow to Mozart, having abruptly realized his childish behaviors and the obvious ignoring of returning back home.
|The tormented spirit DON GIOVANNI|
|The mysterious messenger|
|The Enchanted Queen from THE MAGIC FLUTE|
Having finished “The Magic Flute”, Mozart tried to concentrate on the requiem. The anonymous messenger had consistently added pressures to have the work completed, but he was too ill to continue on it alone. His conditions worsened as Mozart collapsed during a performance of “The Magic Flute”, to which he conducted and accompanied with instrument. Salieri, ever present and attended as many performances as possible, witnessed the incident and arranged and rode on transportation to return Mozart home. He made sure that he was placed on his bed and noticed that Constanze was not present. It came to pass that she had enough of Mozart’s ill- advised behaviors and retreated to a nearby resort for rest. This was the entrance Salieri needed to Mozart.
|Salieri assists Mozart with the Requiem|
|The music comes faster than it can be written|
|Mozart meets his fate|
|Salieri's last words to the priest|
Shortly after the preview of Peter Shaffer’s new play, AMADEUS, premiered at the National Theater in London on November 2, 1979, an audience member made a declaration about the work. That person was none other than Academy Award- winning director Milos Foreman (ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST) stating that he had the subject for his next motion picture and would dedicate the time necessary to properly present the story in its most classical and authentic interpretation possible.
It would take nearly two years later to have Shaffer finally agree upon the collaboration for the screenplay in 1982. The project became an obsession, as the two men locked themselves away from the public in a Connecticut farmhouse for 4 months, hatching out the plot, story and dialog. After the screenplay had been completed, Foreman contacted producer Saul Zaentz, who shared in the Academy Award victory for ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST. Zaentz was on board with the project and suggested that they enlist box office stars for the roles. Foreman was against it, envisioning how unacceptable it would be to have Mozart played by a recognizable face.
Almost a year later, after auditions from both Tim Curry and Mark Hamill as Mozart were held since they played Amadeus on stage in various productions, had the cast finally been rounded off and the production could begin filming in Prague, Czechoslovakia, the best location offering a re-created setting of 18th- century Vienna.
|Special Effects artist Dick Smith works on Salieri's make-up|
In 1985, during the 57th annual Academy Awards presentation, AMADEUS had been nominated for eleven awards and won eight. The winning awards were Best Picture, Best Actor: F. Murray Abraham, Best Director: Milos Foreman, Best Screenplay: Peter Schaffer, Best Art Direction- Set Decorator, Best Costume Design, Best Sound and Best Make- Up. The other three nominations were for Best Actor: Tom Hulce, Best Choreography and Best Film Editing.
|Director Milos Foreman and Producer Saul Zaentz on Award night|
MY PERSONAL RECOMMENDATION
Other films had been made aside from AMADEUS, regarding the lives of other famous composers. My mother’s favorite is the 1945 adaptation of Frederick Chopin’s life entitled A SONG TO REMEMBER. Another that was released in 1994 was IMMORTAL BELOVED starring Gary Oldman as Ludwig Von Beethoven. Perhaps AMADEUS rings as a personal favorite for two reasons: one: as previously stated, being that Mozart has always been my favorite classic composer and two: its origins are rooted from theatre and retain a great deal of that particular showmanship throughout the film.
AMADEUS plays as a “greatest hits” collection of Mozart’s finest works as well. Selections from “The Marriage of Figaro”, “The Magic Flute”, “Don Giovanni” and even the dark “Requiem” are all present and interweaving throughout the film. The motion picture plays out like a musical, of sorts, since the entire film is routed with melodies, compositions, operatic singing and arias throughout the entire run: from the opening sequence to the bitter ending.
|F. Murray Abraham directed by Milos Foreman|
It would not be fair to say that the film is a somber production and would easily defuse those not interested in a tear- jerker. I have always seen the film as a celebration of the works and the man who composed such memorable and enchanting compositions. It is hardening to see such an intelligent and musical genius endure the likes of life’s poisons as alcohol and prostitution. Would it be fair to say that Mozart ranks as the 17th century Jim Morrison or Janice Joplin or even Kurt Cobain, all of which displayed immense talents and were taken in by the abuses available to them. Another case in point to ponder, most talented individuals are met with a premature demise. Must the talented be met with the abuses of life to explore parallels yet to be explored within the mind or needs to help suppress the overflow that cannot be contained?
|Tom Hulce (l) and F. Murray Abraham (r)|
A very exciting aspect is the production value of AMADEUS. Not a single detail was spared in the recreation of authentic costuming, set design and the classic photography to essentially capture the period and the story without alluding to fancy or flashy photographic effects, which were becoming the new fad of 1980’s films.
In closing, AMADEUS may mark a round age of 30 years, but the detailed and timeless production holds very strongly without a wrinkle to show for it… even after all of these years.
So, what is your point? Is AMADEUS a film that is a must- see or own? Is it one that you have placed on your “to- watch” list and still haven’t gotten to it yet?
Voice your comments and post them right here… I will reply to all and I look forward to your thoughts and opinions! Stay tuned for next month’s blog entry scheduled for Thursday September 25th, 2014! Thank you once again for visiting and supporting this site!