The incredible story of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, told in flashback by his peer and secret rival Antonio Salieri - now confined to an insane asylum.
Year 1, Day 200
BEFORE: Moving away from current nominees, the marathon goes back to 1984 to watch Amadeus, winner of 8 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Actor, and Director. Amadeus continues this trend of lengthy films clocking in at 160 minutes. Time to learn about the death of Mozart and hopefully be entertained at the same time.
AFTER: While the film is titled Amadeus in reference to Mozart’s middle name, the film is more about a rival, Antonio Salieri. According to Wikipedia, the film is based on Peter Shaffer’s play, also titled Amadeus, and is a “highly fictionalized account” of these two composer’s lives. I’m now disappointed that what I watch can’t serve as a great history lesson but I can say that it was highly entertaining; surprising given that it’s about 18th century opera and classical music.
Amadeus succeeds not just in telling a great story, but in showing complex development of the two main characters Salieri and Mozart. As someone who didn’t know much, or anything at all really, about these two men, I wasn’t able to point out flaws in historical accuracies of the story. But that’s not what’s important. Just like many people loved Titanic even though the story of Jack and Rose is clearly a creation of James Cameron, the same is true with this imagined rivalry between Salieri and Mozart. Throughout the course of the film you get to see every trait of these men with extraordinary detail. These characters really come to life in a way I don’t normally see in films. Most of the time I can relate to or connect with a character but rarely do I get to know a character as deeply as I did in Amadeus. It’s a testament to both the writing and the acting. F. Murray Abraham (who played Salieri) and Tom Hulce (who played Mozart) are very deserving of their Oscar nominations with Abraham bringing home the win. A phenomenal job done by both of them in addition to a great supporting cast that complimented and added to the characters of Salieri and Mozart.
One of the few downsides of the film was it’s structure, or rather, the inclusion of the narration. The film starts out with Salieri attempting to commit suicide later in life due to guilt for having killed Mozart. The rest of the film is told as a flashback as Salieri narrates the goings on to a Priest (Richard Frank) with alternating chunks of old Salieri talking and sections of his younger self and Mozart without narration. Narration can be a tricky thing that makes or breaks a film. Titanic is very similar in the setup compared to Amadeus: the older version of a character tells the story of their past. I enjoyed the narration in Titanic because it wasn’t too invasive - most of it happened at the beginning to set everything up and then the narrator only hopped in a handful of times the rest of the film. A Christmas Story on the other hand had a constant narration throughout the entire film, always there explaining what was going on and the thoughts going through Ralph’s head. To me it’s just too much and doesn’t let the film stand for itself; your entire experience is being directed through a singular lens. Amadeus was a mix of both leaning more towards Titanic. Salieri set things up very well in the beginning but then he kept coming back every fifteen to twenty minutes. At the end in the final act, the old Salieri finally stopped appearing as much and for me was the best part of the film. No longer was this narrator constantly there and that left me to see the character development by myself. And I must say, seeing Mozart’s character change right before his death was like seeing him transform into an entirely new character.
Without having seen the other contenders for the 57th Academy Awards I can’t say for certain, but Amadeus is an incredibly entertaining film. The characters, and the actors who played them, were unlike anything I’ve seen before and the film made a seemingly boring topic (18th century opera and classical music) something quite exciting. If only the narration were spread out a little bit more… Oh well. Amadeus is still worth seeing despite this minor flaw.
RATING: 4 out of 5