I'm pretty astounded that I haven't seen this movie before. I have been in choirs and taken private voice lessons for many, many years, and somehow had no idea that this movie existed. You would think that someone who sings from Mozart operas would be drawn to a film about the man. I always saw the movie at rental stores, but I never (as stupid as this sounds) knew what it was from just glancing at the box art. In my senior year of high school, I actually went to Europe, to Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic, to sing and tour. We went to tons of places that Mozart lived and performed. We sang his works in churches, at Catholic mass. I guess I didn't pay much attention on the tours, though. I am pretty sure I spent most of my time taking bad "photography" and eating too many imposter Mozartkugel (little known fact - you can buy these guys at World Market - for me, the taste of them so strongly brings me back to that fun trip that I like buying a few every now and then, for nostalgia). So, with all of that in mind, I sat down today and watched the three hour long director's cut of Amadeus, directed in 1984 by Miloš Forman. I didn't pick the director's cut for any reason other than it was streaming on Netflix, but I read up a bit about what was added in and I (ignorantly, of course) felt that the extra scenes were a positive thing.
The movie is about the famous and genius Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. It's a historically inacturat story of his life, as told by his enemy, Salieri. Salieri is in an insane asylum, and tells the story as he confesses to a priest that he killed Mozart. He remembers that he prayed to God to be gifted musically, vowing to remain chaste if he could be talented. However, Salieri seems cursed - he is unable to compose beautiful music but has a great ear for detecting it. He meets Mozart awkwardly, spying on him as he flirts with a girl in a lewd way. When Mozart rushes out to conduct, Salieri is disgusted to learn that such a gross man has been gifted with such talent. Eventually, their strange relationship continues, and Salieri's intents become much more sinister.
It's a really interesting film, and I loved it. Was blown away by it and am now obsessed with it. I was actually upset that no one told me to watch this before I went to Europe. I spent all my free time wearing huge platform boots with plaid skirts, and listening to Bathory and like, Elvenking. I would have loved to see Mozart portrayed as a rebel, as a punk rock kind of guy who was different and shocking and lewd. I loved how his wigs had a edge to them, they were spikier and more colorful, just to put him apart from the rest of the people even more. My gothy, high school self would have maybe focused on those many, Mozart-related tours had I thought of him in this light. I know many people take issue with this sort of edgier and rude portrayal of him, but I liked it a lot. I also looked up info about him, and saw that there is literally an entire page on Wikipedia devoted to "Mozart and Scatology". He apparently loved fart and poop jokes and used them constantly, even writing music about it such as "Leck mich im Arsch" (English: "Lick me in the ass") for six voices, so to some extent, he must have been a little crazy and edgy.
I could gush about how much I love this movie all night. It has so many wonderful moments. Even Ebert's essay is more of just a discussion of moments he enjoyed. There is something that just felt perfect about this movie to me. I will say that I have a bit of an obsession with movies that take place during eras when people wear powdered wigs. I really like the style (even my bedroom is full of light blue and gold gaudy things), and this was no exception. It isn't just the plot and style that I love, though. I love the acting. Mozart's laugh is so strange but the perfect touch. Salieri has many subtle, sad moments, that were really powerful. There was something really tragic to his storyline, as much as he was cast in an unfavorable light. As Ebert writes of the tragedy of Salieri at the end of his essay, "Then watch his face again at Mozart's deathbed, as he takes the final dictation. He knows how good it is. And he knows at that moment there is only one thing he loves more than himself, and that is Mozart's music" (Great Movies II, 22). I really loved this aspect of the movie. There was so much time and attention given to developing all of the characters, making them complex and relatable. It's not easy to make people care about classical music. I've studied it for a long time and I struggled to care about it while sitting in the theater Mozart performed in. I don't know many people who just pop in a Mozart CD when they feel like listening to music while they drive. The rich characters make it so easy for people to love the man, and his works. If you love him as a person while you watch the movie, you can fall in love with his music. Or at least I think so.
A brief word about the director's cut that I watched. I just saw that this was on Netflix streaming, so I watched that version. I did read a bit about what was added. There is a scene in the director's cut where Mozart's wife Constanze comes to Salieri with original copies of Mozart's work so that he can apply for job that would pay quite a bit of money. Salieri is enthralled and angered by the talent he detects in the work, and tells Constanze that if she will come and give him certain...favors....Mozart will have the job. This is, of course, more to humiliate Mozart than to please Salieri. She is creeped out, but in the end, she comes back to see him. She knows what he wants, and she starts to undress. Salieri becomes angered, and calls in his servant to see her out. The scene, while it gives an opportunity for some slight nudity, also explains a lot of things in the film. Later in the movie Constanze shows her hatred and contempt for Salieri, and I have a hard time seeing how it could have made sense without this added scene. But, yunno, I can't really say, since I never saw it without the scene, but to me, it's hard to imagine why Constanze would be so disgusted with Salieri unless something happened. So that's...not so brief. But there you have it.
It's late and Queens of the Stone Age are on Conan, and I don't know that me obsessing about this movie will make you watch it. But you must! It's great. It's way more fun than it sounds - Mozart is pretty rock 'n roll and crazy, which is highly appealing. There are lots of boring, historical, biopic movies, but this is not one of them. It's really long, but I was completely enthralled. The version I watched is streaming on Netflix or Amazon, and it's really worth taking the time to watch. If you feel like you share my taste in movies at all, see it! I'm pretty much just going to buy it on Blu-ray to subject my friends and family to it because I love it so much right now. Let me know what you think if you do check it out!
Have any of you seen Amadeus? Share your thoughts in the comments!
Ebert's Great Movie Essay on Amadeus
Some photos for you from my trip to Europe!
|Mozart's Birthouse, from the outside.|
|Creepy baby Mozart, inside his Birthhouse.|
|I hope he did not look like this as a baby.|
|The theater that Mozart's operas, such as The Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni, premiered. The film Amadeus was shot on location here, which is pretty cool.|