Quick Hit: Bold, brash, humorous and colorful – just like you would expect the music of a master to be.
I totally thought, when I selected this movie as part of my fifty I was excited to watch in 2017, that I had seen it before. But when the movie started, I realized I was in for something new, and something delightful at that. Amadeus, which won 8 Academy Awards, is full of life, but it is also full of darkness. It’s unfortunate that it is so easy to understand that darkness.
The story is told entirely by a rival composer Salieri (played with a vicious, fiery intensity by F. Murray Abraham) – rival that is, to the young, prodigy composer Mozart. Salieri wants so badly to succeed at composing music, and indeed, his music is good. But he slaves at it and works at it, and it takes only a moment for Mozart, in one disheartening scene, to take what was Salieri’s piece and improve it to be one of Mozart’s most famous pieces. It is truly Abraham’s work here, with the subtle balance thrown in to acting both the part of narrator and protagonist.
Mozart, for his part of the story, is played by Tom Hulce. Yes, that Tom Hulce from Animal House. If you thought (and I thought) you were going to see a traditional representation of Mozart, we were both wrong. Here, Mozart’s wigs are frequently slightly pinkish, he is a childish, boorish young man who only wants his music to succeed but doesn’t necessarily want to do what everyone wants him to do. The music just comes easily to him. Oh, and he has what may be the most ridiculous laugh I’ve ever heard, but I can’t help but love it.
It goes without saying that a movie about Mozart will feature prominently some of his works. What is most impressive is how organically all the music is worked into the film. While some scenes are typical and have characters simply playing the pieces on screen, other times they are used as transitions between scenes. The music swells when Salieri picks up a scroll upon which a masterpiece is composed, allowing us to know Salieri’s feelings. This is only heightened when it comes to the mixture of Abraham’s performance and the music.
I think that the most impressive thing about a movie like this is that at times it plays to be a boy trying to please his father. We often don’t think of people like the grand masters of the musical world being people just like us, but indeed they were. The relationship is a strained one, and you can see that Mozart draws inspiration from it. He also draws inspiration as well as motivation from his young wife, played by Elizabeth Berridge. While you half expect her to be the same type of character that Mozart is – that is, ready to have fun at a moment’s notice – instead she seems to be concerned if her husband is not working. It’s a fun play on expectations.
The sets are tremendous, and the costume design is on point. As I mentioned previously, Mozart wears a wig that is slightly different from the rest, but there is also the yellowed and browned color scheme that we often see Salieri wearing. When you combine that with the bright colors that Mozart always seems to be flashing, the contrast between them is even more apparent.
I really enjoyed this one, but I will say there is no way it will be for everyone. Check it out if you are interested in classical music and period pieces. I'm giving it an "A-".
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"