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A Wacky Mozart in “Amadeus”

Updated on October 18, 2016
Charito1962 profile image

Ms. Charito is a Filipino based in Manila. She has worked as an executive assistant and a journalist. She is a widow with a grown-up son.


I love watching historical movies about famous artists. And one film I never tire rewatching is Saul Zaentz’s 1984 production of Amadeus.

Though I have never seen the stage version written by Peter Shaffer, I must say that the film is good enough, since it obviously presents a more elaborate 18th century setting.

Flashback style

I have studied how many writers - who use the flashback style - achieve success in their storytelling. Shaffer, I believe, has done just that. At the start - after old Antonio Salieri is rushed to an asylum for attempting to kill himself - the film formally opens with him seated by the piano, narrating to a visiting priest about his experiences with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. I am impressed by the way the writer employs the time element in this story. It takes place in one night until the morning when Salieri is wheeled away from the priest.

F. Murray Abraham

To me, the character of Salieri stands out more than Mozart. F. Murray Abraham (who plays Dar Adal in the TV series Homeland) delivers a superb performance, especially in playing the old Salieri. He truly deserves the Best Actor award.


He had simply written down music already finished in his head! Page after page of it as if he were just taking dictation. And music, finished as no music is ever finished. Displace one note and there would be diminishment. Displace one phrase and the structure would fall. It was clear to me that sound I had heard in the Archbishop's palace had been no accident. Here again was the very voice of God! I was staring through the cage of those meticulous ink-strokes at an absolute beauty.

— Salieri, on Mozart’s score

Salieri (F. Murray Abraham) looks at Mozart’s original copies.

The Mozart monument at Salzburg, the composer’s birthplace in Austria.
The Mozart monument at Salzburg, the composer’s birthplace in Austria. | Source

A different image of Mozart

When I first saw this film, I was surprised to see a Mozart totally different from what I learned from my history classes. Here was a famous composer who was giggly, drunk, and vulgar.

But the acting of Tom Hulce (who voiced Quasimodo in Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame) is really amusing. I loved the way he would do his high-pitched laughter!

Still, I believe Hulce succeeded in performing his role well, as he showed great talent in the delivery of his lines (“It’s the best opera yet written!”), in the conducting of his orchestra, and in his animated games. He definitely adds a comic touch to the story!

Forgive me, Majesty. I am a vulgar man! But I assure you, my music is not.

— Mozart

The funny scenes here include Salieri watching Mozart (Tom Hulce) and Constanze (Elizabeth Berridge), Mozart’s first opera, and Mozart aping Salieri.

A weak leader (“Well, there it is!”)

Even if Shaffer had made an extensive research on Emperor Joseph II (played by Jeffrey Jones in the film), I was still surprised to see this character portrayed as a weak leader.

This is evident in the scenes where he critiques Mozart’s opera for having “too many notes”, and for awarding Salieri’s mediocre piece as the “Best Opera”. Furthermore, he is easily taken in by the poor advices of his two subjects in charge of the theater - Count Orsini-Rosenberg (played by Charles Kay) and Kapellmeister Giuseppe Bonno (played by Patrick Hines).

Emperor Joseph II (Jeffrey Jones): "Too many notes!"

Memorable scenes

No doubt, the opera scenes heighten the quality of this film. Yet, I will mention two scenes I like most. One of these is where Mozart meets the Emperor for the first time. When the young composer is challenged to play Salieri’s March of Welcome, he sits at the piano immediately and plays the piece with much ease - even if he had heard it just once! What delights me is how Mozart embarrasses Salieri by enhancing his composition.

Mozart impresses the emperor and his subjects by enhancing the march composed by Salieri.

Mozart (Tom Hulce) kissing the hand of Salieri (F. Murray Abraham). "It's not a holy relic!"
Mozart (Tom Hulce) kissing the hand of Salieri (F. Murray Abraham). "It's not a holy relic!" | Source

Then, there is that popular dictation scene where Salieri - all through the night - assists the exhausted Mozart in finishing the notation of his Requiem. I find this the most dramatic part of the film because the Requiem is fittingly played in the background, and ends in the scene where Mozart finally dies in the morning.


Dictation scene with Mozart and Salieri

For lovers of historical movies and followers of opera, I would truly recommend Amadeus. Everything in this film is just excellent – from the costumes to the script, to the music, to the acting. Indeed, it deserves the Best Picture award.

Here are great materials to keep :

Amadeus
Amadeus

Saul Zaentz’s superb production of Peter Shaffer’s famous play!

 

Tell us what you thought of the movie "Amadeus".

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    • Vortrek Grafix profile image

      Vortrek Grafix 3 years ago

      Hi Charito, This was a great movie. Loved the contrast between happy go lucky natural genius Amadeus, and prim, proper and discipline Maestro Salieri. Being brilliant in his own right, Salieri begrudging realizes other composers are merely mediocre in Mozart's presence. And what a twist at the end of that movie!

    • SilverLotus1 profile image

      SilverLotus1 3 years ago

      I love this movie! Glad you did such a good review!

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 3 years ago

      This is the kind of movie I like -- a little culture and a little history and non-fiction.

    • Rosetta Slone profile image

      Rosetta Slone 3 years ago from Under a coconut tree

      I watched this movie years and years ago and had totally forgotten about it. I'll have to watch it again, thanks to your wonderful review :)

    • Charito1962 profile image
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      Charito Maranan-Montecillo 3 years ago from Manila, Philippines

      @tazzytamar: Thank you very much! Pleased to know you both!

    • tazzytamar profile image

      Anna 3 years ago from chichester

      You're reviews are excellent - you should be a critic. Ps. I know I already posted on this lens but I just showed it to my mum and she loved it!

    • Arachnea profile image

      Tanya Jones 3 years ago from Texas USA

      I agree, using the flashback device and by extension the dream sequence, is not an easy endeavor for a writer. When it's done well, the results can be what actually makes the writing (or in this case, the movie).

    • Charito1962 profile image
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      Charito Maranan-Montecillo 3 years ago from Manila, Philippines

      @smine27: Thanks!

    • Charito1962 profile image
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      Charito Maranan-Montecillo 3 years ago from Manila, Philippines

      @tazzytamar: You'll like it, believe me!

    • tazzytamar profile image

      Anna 3 years ago from chichester

      This is brilliantly written and sounds like my kind of film! Will definitely be giving it a go :)

    • Klaartje Loose profile image

      Klaartje Loose 3 years ago

      I love this movie!

    • profile image

      happynutritionist 3 years ago

      I have been wanting to see this movie again, we saw it when it was in the theaters and loved it!

    • Adele Jeunette profile image

      Adele Jeunette 3 years ago

      We just watched it again. It holds up well.

    • jmchaconne profile image

      jmchaconne 3 years ago

      I loved the movie, the acting was superb as was the cinematography, and of course the music of Mozart.

    • Old Navy Guy profile image

      Old Navy Guy 3 years ago

      I really enjoyed the movie when it came out and I even bought the DVD. Also, your assessment of the actors is spot on. The right actors with the right writer's equals an excellent movie. Thank you for sharing.

    • smine27 profile image

      Shinichi Mine 3 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      I have to say this was one of my favorite films to date. It helps that I've always been a fan of Mozart. Great review.

    • Charito1962 profile image
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      Charito Maranan-Montecillo 3 years ago from Manila, Philippines

      @Nancy Hardin: You're welcome! Great to hear from you!

    • Nancy Hardin profile image

      Nancy Carol Brown Hardin 3 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      I think you hit the nail on the head with your review. There may be others who disagree, but I totally agree with your assessment of the film, the characters and the actors. Thanks for this review, and it will go on my Facebook page Hand in Glove With History and on my blog of the same name. Thanks again.

    • Charito1962 profile image
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      Charito Maranan-Montecillo 3 years ago from Manila, Philippines

      @Lynn Klobuchar: You won't regret it, believe me!

    • Charito1962 profile image
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      Charito Maranan-Montecillo 3 years ago from Manila, Philippines

      @Donna Cook: Glad you liked the film!

    • Lynn Klobuchar profile image

      Lynn Klobuchar 3 years ago from Minneapolis, Minnesota

      You are reminding me that I really liked this movie and need to check it out again!

    • profile image

      Donna Cook 3 years ago

      Great review! This movie has everything I love! I'm a huge fan of the Czech American director, Milos Forman and of Mozart's music (like most people). I've seen the phrase "period porn" of which this is an excellent example. I am of Czech descent and get lost in the exterior scenes which were shot in Prague.

      Just a fabulous movie.

    • Charito1962 profile image
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      Charito Maranan-Montecillo 3 years ago from Manila, Philippines

      @Gloriousconfusion: Glad you did!

    • Charito1962 profile image
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      Charito Maranan-Montecillo 3 years ago from Manila, Philippines

      @MartieG: Glad you did!

    • profile image

      tonyleather 3 years ago

      Loved it!

    • Gloriousconfusion profile image

      Diana Grant 3 years ago from United Kingdom

      I enjoyed your review. I saw the film, and it was really good

    • MartieG profile image

      MartieG aka 'survivoryea' 3 years ago from Jersey Shore

      Nice review-I liked the movie also! :>)

    • Charito1962 profile image
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      Charito Maranan-Montecillo 3 years ago from Manila, Philippines

      @tonyleather: That's good to know, sir Tony!

    • Charito1962 profile image
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      Charito Maranan-Montecillo 3 years ago from Manila, Philippines

      @CherylsArt: You can say that again!

    • CherylsArt profile image

      Cheryl Paton 3 years ago from West Virginia

      Looks like a fun movie. It is certainly not the Mozart that I heard about in school. : )

    • Charito1962 profile image
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      Charito Maranan-Montecillo 3 years ago from Manila, Philippines

      @Aladdins Cave: Thanks for visiting!

    • Aladdins Cave profile image

      Aladdins Cave 3 years ago from Melbourne, Australia

      Love classical music to say I liked this lens. Thank you

      Cheers from DOWNUNDER

    • Charito1962 profile image
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      Charito Maranan-Montecillo 3 years ago from Manila, Philippines

      @Colin323: I agree it's really a great film!

    • profile image

      Colin323 3 years ago

      Yes, this is a very good film, excellent acting, and it highlights the contrast between the nobility of Mozart, the Artist; and the fraility of Mozart, the Man.

    • Charito1962 profile image
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      Charito Maranan-Montecillo 3 years ago from Manila, Philippines

      @flycatcherrr: Thanks! I'm glad you liked the movie much as I did. Believe me, it's worth re-watching. Best regards.

    • Charito1962 profile image
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      Charito Maranan-Montecillo 3 years ago from Manila, Philippines

      @takkhisa: Glad you liked it! It's really worth re-watching.

    • takkhisa profile image

      Takkhis 3 years ago

      This is one of my best movies I have watched so far. The story and music both are great!! :)

    • Charito1962 profile image
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      Charito Maranan-Montecillo 3 years ago from Manila, Philippines

      @MarcellaCarlton: You're welcome! Glad you like the movie.

    • profile image

      MarcellaCarlton 3 years ago

      I love this movie! The acting and music were so great. Thank you for reminding us of this film and for sharing what you know.

    • Charito1962 profile image
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      Charito Maranan-Montecillo 3 years ago from Manila, Philippines

      @PaigSr: That just shows you have good taste!

    • PaigSr profile image

      PaigSr 3 years ago from State of Confussion

      I have to admit the only reason I watched this movie was for the music.

    • Charito1962 profile image
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      Charito Maranan-Montecillo 3 years ago from Manila, Philippines

      @aesta1: Glad you liked it! Regards.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 3 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I love this movie, too. Life stories of people I admire are to me very interesting.

    • flycatcherrr profile image

      flycatcherrr 4 years ago

      Such a powerful film! I hadn't much wanted to see it when it came out in the theatres, but a friend gave it such a compelling review - much as you've done here - that I ended up going to see it, several times. Well done.