Cinerama: Amadeus

Posted: September 11, 2009 in Cinerama


By Mike Derderian

A black reflective surface almost shinning if it weren’t for the thick layer of dust covering its varnish. Its rusted iron strings are sliding down the fretted neck passing over a hallow oculus, where one of the strings is slightly eroded due to a harsh irregular solo picking and rough riff formations.

Leaning against the wall, the classic guitar stood there waiting for a divine hand to produce the best music that would restore its long lost dignity by the hands of a mediocre musician. Wishing for a gentle touch and a warm embrace of a lover, like that of Spanish guitarist Paco De Lucia, the guitar almost reached euphoria. It even went as far as imagining Jimi Hendrix caressing its neck. However, instead of Voodoo Child echoing through its wooden body, it was rocked by Amadeus’ music.

The first time I heard of Amadeus was in 1993 at the movies, when I heard Danny Madigan (Austin O’Brien)—the young protagonist along side Jack Slater (Arnold Schwarzenegger) in the box office failure “Last Action Hero”—refer to bad guy John Practice (F. Murray Abraham) as the man who killed Mozart. A reference to Abraham’s role in Amadeus as you’ll find out once you have rent this 1984 fictitious film based on a play by Peter Shaffer about the life and death of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Directed by Milos Forman, the eight academy award winner film—for best picture, best direction (Forman), best actor (Abraham) and best screenplay based on material from another medium (Shaffer)—stars Tom Hulce, Elisabeth Berridge, Herman Meckler, Simon Gallow, Roy Dotrice and Abraham as Antonio Salieri, who is both the narrator and antagonist in this film.

After being admitted to an insane asylum at an old age, Salieri, whom once was a well-known Italian composer at the royal court of Emperor Joseph II, recounts to a priest (Meckler) how he plotted the death of Mozart (Hulce).

Despite his utter hate for the legendary musician, Salieri admitted to the priest that Mozart was his idol, “I can’t think of a time when I didn’t know his name.”

The film offers an insight into the complex psyche of an antagonist rather than a protagonist; Amadeus is not about Mozart as much it is about the bad guy’s side of the story, his motive, beliefs and logic.

In the film, Salieri’s persona and how his admiration turns into loathing explain how a self-righteous man turns into a vile person without even noticing it using arguments working for his own interest and reasons.

Upon hearing the title Amadeus one would imagine that the whole dialogue is spoken in old English; however, to the viewers’ surprise they will find that it was all based upon common American English.

Establishing himself as a prolific actor with a skill to portray a diversity of roles that include villains and embittered men with big dreams and hopes, Abraham’s on screen presence and performance are unquestionably noteworthy and striking elements in the movie.

His somewhat strong authoritative voice enabled him to play the role of the narrator in many films and his voice narration in Amadeus accompanied with the brilliantly fused dialogue—especially his—presented quite an argument in favor of Salieri’s motive.

Tom Hulce’s portrayal of the young lavishing Mozart earned him a best supporting actor nomination, an award he would have won if he hadn’t lost it to Haing S. Ngor in the Killing Fields. Despite the fact that Hulce’s portrayal of Mozart as a man with a hysterical laugh might give the impression to some viewers of a cheap shot aimed at the ingenious composer, depicting him as a spoiled, lecherous, decadent and money wanton being.

Born in 1756 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart astonished the world as he begun composing music at the age of five. However, sadly due to his love for the extravagant, he died in 1791 poor and was buried from a feverish illness, leaving behind The Requiem, one of his greatest works, which they say he wrote it as he was imagining his own death. Mozart was buried in an unmarked grave.

Amadeus is not by any means a historical based film, yet it is spectacle to watch; especially that its packed with musical soundtrack composed by Mozart himself, like Symphony No. 25 in g minor, K 183, 1st movement, Piano Concerto No. 20 in d minor, K 466, 2nd movement and the final heart breaking piece “Lachrymosa”, taken from the Requiem, K 626.

One of the best scenes in Amadeus that was brilliantly portrayed on both the audio and visual levels is when we see the glory of music incarnate as Salieri and the ill-stricken Mozart stay up all night composing and writing down The Requiem.


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