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The story of the last 10 years of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's life, is narrated through flashbacks by his jealous, now feeble and insane counterpart, 18th century composer Antonio Salieri, to a young priest who comes to council Salieri about his attempted suicide, which has landed Antonio Salieri in a private room in the insane asylum.
The wonderful cast includes: F. Murray Abraham, Tom Hulce, Elizabeth Berridge, Simon Callow, Roy Dotrice, Christine Ebersole, Jeffrey Jones, Charles Kay, Kenny Baker, Lisabeth Bartlett, Barbara Bryne, Martin Cavina, Roderick Cook, Milan Demjanenko, and Peter DiGesu.
The screenplay was written by Peter Shaffer, who also wrote the original play. Produced by Saul Zaentz.
Amadeus won 8 academy awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor.
Directed by Milos Forman.
This fictional story is about bad choices made by two talented but flawed human beings, which leads to tragedy for both men, Mozart and Salieri. Antonio Salieri in reality didn't do what this story suggests, as it is merely a product of Peter Shaffer's fertile imagination, which has upset fans of Salieri, as they feel his name has been maligned.
The film begins in the streets of Vienna, during a rainy, dark night. We enter the elderly Antonio Salieri's plush home. His valet (Vincent Schiavelli) and a helper stand outside his bedroom door, trying to tempt him to open the door with a favorite dessert. We hear Antonio Salieri crying out, "I confess, I killed Mozart! Forgive me Mozart!" After hearing some disturbing sounds, the door is forcibly opened, and we see that Antonio has slit his own throat in a suicide attempt.
As they carry him hurriedly away on a stretcher down the street, one hears Mozart's music being played and sees people dancing to it inside a mansion during a party. In Antonio Salieri's time in which he was living, priests would make house calls, to offer a tormented person a chance to confess their problems, and receive God's forgiveness and in turn receive some peace from their torment. Thus, a priest, Father Vogler (Richard Frank) goes to the asylum to Salieri's private room, where he sees Salieri playing a tune on a piano. He walks in, sits down and waits for Salieri to finish. Then, Father Vogler and Salieri start a conversation, with the hope of uncovering what is tormenting Salieri,with the hope that Salieri would find some peace through confession.
Through a combination of flashbacks to the past and current dialogue between Antonio Salieri and Father Vogler, accompanied with Mozart's music in its various forms, the audience is told the history between Salieri and Mozart. We see how things got off on the wrong foot from the beginning, which unfortunately escalate to the tragic ending, resulting in Mozart's premature death and a continuing torment that eats away at Antonio Salieri, which takes away his sanity and will to live.
Antonio Salieri grew up in a small town in Italy, with a deep desire to create music that gave glory to God. As a boy, he had heard of the boy prodigy, Mozart, who was composing by the age of four, and played for monarchs in the royal courts all over Europe. Speaking of Mozart, Salieri says, "He was my idol. I can't think of a time when I didn't know his name."
When Salieri's father died, Salieri went on to learn music, compose and became the court composer for the music loving Emperor Joseph II (Jeffrey Jones), of Vienna, Austria. Salieri said, "Actually, the man had no ear at all. But he loved my music."
Imagine Salieri's excitement when he learns that the great Mozart is coming to Vienna to play for Mozart's benefactor, Archbishop Colloredo (Nicholas Kepros). Salieri walks around the reception room, eagerly looking at all the men's faces, seeing if genius and talent can be seen on this man's face. Salieri walks into a room, and witnesses Mozart chasing a young woman whom he loves around and under the food table, and listens with disbelief as Mozart's crude side comes out in his conversation with the lovely, soon-to-be Constanze Mozart (Elizabeth Berridge). Mozart's high, unique, annoying laugh added to Salieri's disillusionment.
The more Antonio Salieri gets to know and observe Mozart, and realizes just how talented Mozart is, the more he realizes the mediocrity of his own talent, and he becomes more and more agitated that such an obscene monkey can have such a gift from God. Besides loving to party, drink, act like an unrefined, arrogant lout, Mozart also seemed to have lose morals, and spent more money than he could ever earn, lacking self-control when it came to having a good time.
The straw that broke the camel's back and pushes Antonio Salieri over the top is when Katerina Cavalieri (Christine Ebersole), a student of Salieri whom he had feelings for, not only sings in Mozart's new Opera about a Turkish Harem, but sleeps with Mozart as well. Salieri tells Father Vogel, "That creature had had my darling girl."
For the first time, his bitterness and envy turn to hatred, violent thoughts entered his mind. However, he doesn't start on his mission to hurt Mozart anyway he can, until the newly married Mrs. Constanz Mozart comes to see him, with sample of Mozart's original work, hoping to get her husband a job, teaching the Emperor's niece the piano.
As Salieri reads the breath-taking notes, the audience hears the music written there. He is overwhelmed by its brilliance, ion awe of its absolute beauty. This music was like the voice of God; the kind and quality of music that he himself had long dreamed of writing, but never had the talent to do so; only the talent to recognize such genius.
From this moment on, he became an enemy to Mozart, and loses his faith in God, burning his crucifix in the fire. ""Because you choose for your instrument a boastful, lustful, smutty, infantile boy; and give me for reward only the ability to recognize the incarnation; because you are unjust, unfair, unkind; I will block you".
Antonio Salieri couldn't get over the fact that God gave such an incredible talent to such a buffoon, a party animal, a vulgar creature, such as Mozart. In contrast, Salieri doesn't understand why God gave him such a mediocre talent, but yet he had the ability to see real genius.
Salieri blames himself for Mozart's death, because of his venomous schemes that he initiated, taking advantage of opportunities that pop up, cleverly exploiting Mozart's psychological weaknesses.
While acting on his hatred and jealousy of Mozart helps to lead to the final ruin of Mozart's health, it is Mozart's drinking problem and party life-style that is the ultimate killer. It becomes clear to the priest and the audience that not only is Salieri suffering from enormous guilt, but also by the fact that even when Mozart was long dead, his music lives on, while Salieri's music is now completely forgotten.
In the present, will Father Vogel be able to help Salieri find relief from his ocean of bitterness, guilt, lost faith in God and find peace that only God can now give him, or will he retreat into his own madness, still blinded by his bitterness, guilt and wounded pride?
Amadeus is a classic because of its superb screenplay, its gifted direction, the clever way Mozart's music flows through the script, its wonderful production values and its talented cast of actors and actresses. "This film is a gem, a majestic combination of music, acting and direction combining sometimes ridiculous comedy with deep tragedy. " - Alec Shaw.
In this marvelous screenplay, written by Peter Shaffer, who also wrote the play, does a masterful job developing the various characters, intermingling Mozart's music with the storyline, and blending humor with poignant moments and tragedy. There are no wasted scenes or dialogue. The storyline is a fabrication of Shaffer's creative mind, but gives an interesting scenario that is entertaining and thought-provoking. It explores how human weaknesses and the darker side of human nature can create consequences for all involved, that can overpower our natural gifts meant for good. In this story, both Mozart and Salieri were born with gifts, but were overcome by personal weaknesses leading to misery.
The marvelous, inspired direction was by the great Milos Foreman, who won an Oscar for his work in ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST. He directed his two main actors, Hulse and Abraham, into nominated/ Oscar winning performances.
F Murray Abraham gives a phenomenal performance as Antonio Salieri who unfairly compares his own talent to that of a genius with huge character flaws, causing his own bitterness, hatred and jealousy of Mozart, and anger against God. Abraham won the Best Actor Oscar, an award he truly deserved. His ability to show different emotions without saying a word is remarkable. His ability to talk sanely one moment, and insanely the next is flawless. His delivery of his lines and his timing all bring this tortured character to life.
Tom Hulce also gives a fantastic performance as Amadeus, giving a sympathetic portrayal of this musical fun-loving genius which earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. This musical genius could've told Salieri that being one isn't all what it is cracked up to be. His marvelous gift, while bringing joy, personal fulfillment and acclaim, also dominated his whole life, warping his childhood and causing psychological problems between his stage-mother like father and himself; all which contribute to his bad choices and early death.
A favorite sequence of scenes is when Mozart is welcomed by Emperor Joseph II, who is struggling to play the welcome song written by Antonio Salieri, in honor of the occasion. After pleasantries, Mozart sits down and plays Salieri's march to prove to the Emperor that he had it in his memory after hearing it one time. He then proceeds to add improvements to the march, winding up with a much better piece than originally written.
Jeffrey Jones gives a delightful performance as the music-loving king, Emperor Joseph II.
Quote: "It's about genius, it's about love, it's about hate, it's about tragedy. It'll make you laugh, gasp, and cry." - Iain Watson
Antonio Salieri: "All I wanted to do my whole life is to sing for God. Why did God plant this desire, and then deny the talent?"
AMADEUS (1984) is rated PG. The director's cut of AMADEUS is rated R.
If you enjoyed AMADEUS, you may also like IMMORTAL BELOVED, THE GREAT WALTZ, and LE VIOLON ROUGE.