Someone once said that after seeing Amadeus they were so moved, they felt they could get up on a grand piano and play a symphony. It’s quite a reaction, but it’s not an unseemly one. It’s a film experience in every sense of the word and deserves that rarely used title – masterpiece – that is often given so lightly. It’s the greatest work from Milos Forman, it features some of the best male performances of the eighties and is just so beautiful to look at.
The name Amadeus is the middle name of Mozart, one of music’s most influential voices [not literally]. His story has become legend. Mozart was nothing short of a prodigy in his youth and composed beautiful music. Amadeus, I suppose, is not a credible biopic in its conventional sense. I’m not quite sure how much I would take its word as truth, but it portrays Mozart as the biggest cad of them all. He is talented in his music, certainly, but boorish in all else. Whilst Mozart effortlessly composes beautiful piece after beautiful piece the aging Salieri watches on with envy. This is one of the beauties of Amadeus. We get a legend, but we are told his story through the eyes of another. Salieri would be sympathetic if he was not so idiosyncratic and it is an incredibly performance by F. Murray Abraham who prances about opposite Tom Hulce’s Mozart. Salieri is a man doomed to mediocrity. It was one of the few occasions that saw two leading actor nominations from a same film, and if there was any time this category should have been a tie, it was then. Of course, I cannot fault the Academy’s choice of Abraham, his performance as the older Salieri leaves me with chills.
I’ve expressed by love for cinematography – those gorgeous shots we all revel in, and like a true period piece Amadeus doesn’t let up. The colours, the costumes, the sets are all so saturated with colour and feeling it’s almost orgasmic. Then – the music. I suppose that Mozart is not the music for everyone in this modern age, but I dare you not to be moved as that final piece is composed towards the film’s end. Amadeus is just exceptional film-making; there really is no doubt about that. It takes the time worn story of jealousy and revenge and it’s not that it turns the conventions on its head, but it’s all done so exceptionally well that I cannot help but be impressed.
There are some films that don’t really depend on its payoff. Amadeus is not as much about what happens at the end, though it is shattering. It’s a film all about what happens, each shot, every line. It’s almost perfection, I think perhaps I’m not even appreciating it enough. But Amadeus must be experienced, for the acting or the direction or the story; but above all else for the notes of Mozart – the music.