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Monday, May 19, 2008

Amadeus (1984)

Amadeus is the middle name of one of the greatest composer of all time, the Austrian composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart who lived in Vienna during the 18th century. And thus it is pretty natural that a movie on the life of this great composer (and another composer of the same age, Antonio Salieri) should have the name Amadeus in it. The movie, released in 1984 was a drama film about these 2 men, and caught the attention of critics to such a great extent that it cleaned up on the awards, winning 8 Oscars, and a clutch of BAFTA and Golden Globe awards. The movie was also a commercial hit (although on a smaller scale) since it made around $51 million on a budget of $18 million. Inspite of some creative licenses with the truth (the movie assumes that the murder of Mozart is due to a devious plan by Salieri, when this was not a proven fact).

Amadeus (1984)

The movie also served to make a lot more people aware of the life history of Mozart, and his amazing musical skills. The depiction of his talent was pretty good, wrapped in a story that touches all the human emotions of skill, envy, jealousy and anger, distress, depression, hatred and downfall. All of these were exhibited in the inter-twined life history of Salieri and Mozart, down to the downfall of both of them.
The story is all set in flashback, when a priest visiting Salieri in a mental health institution visits him, trying to get a confession from Salieri about having committed the murder of Mozart. Salieri is initially uninterested, but then opens up and discloses the full story, including his role in the downfall of Mozart. Salieri had a troubled start to his musical career, since his father was not interested in letting his son study music, but then his death opened the door to a musical career. Salieri was not an exceptional musician, and was happy being the court composer to the Austrian Emperor Joseph II, believing his talent to be God's gift. And then Mozart burst onto the screen.
Mozart was funny, he was brash, he was lewd, and he was a genius. He started out with taking a work that Salieri had spent time making, and modified that into a new musical work (conversion of "March of Welcome" to "Non piĆ¹ andrai" march from Mozart's opera 'The Marriage of Figaro'). Salieri is sinking into depression, believing that actually god is laughing at him for his mediocre music. In the meantime, Mozart goes through a whole gamut of emotions; feeling happy at his success and with his wife Constanze and his son Wolfgang, and then getting shaken by court rivalry, depression over his father Leopold's death. He starts to fall down as his family expenses increase and the income starts to fall.
And then the ultimate plan. Salieri decides to deceive Mozart, so he disguises himself to be like Leopold (Mozart's dead father), and gives Mozart a down payment to write a requiem mass (also known as a funeral mass). Mozart starts down to write his best piece of work, not aware that the plan was for Mozart to be killed in the end, and Salieri would then appropriate the Mass and deliver it (in a delicious irony), at Mozart's funeral. Mozart drives himself to madness while writing this work, and his wife leaves him along with their son. His condition continues to decline, and he collapses during a performance. Salieri takes him home, and continues to make Mozart work during his illness.
Mozart's fie returns the next morning, and is shocked to see his condition. Salieri has by now abandoned his plan, and he credits Mozart with work on the composition, and Constanze locks the manuscript away. However, all this is in vain, since Mozart dies, and the composition is left incomplete. Mozart is taken away and buried in a pauper's grave (although his body is recovered later and buried more appropriately). The work remains incomplete, and Salieri is driven to the mental asylum with the thought that God would kill Mozart rather than let Salieri share the glory of the beautiful composition.

The music from the movie:

(all composed by Mozart except as noted)

* Disc One

1. Symphony No. 25 in G minor, K 183, 1st movement
2. Stabat Mater: Quando Corpus Morietur and Amen (Pergolesi - performed by the Choristers of Westminster Abbey, directed by Simon Preston)
3. Early 18th Century Gypsy Music: Bubak and Hungaricus
4. Serenade for Winds, K. 361, 3rd movement
5. The Abduction from the Seraglio, Turkish Finale
6. Symphony No. 29 in A, K 201, 1st movement
7. Concerto for Two Pianos, K. 365, 3rd movement
8. Mass in C minor, K. 427, Kyrie (Mozart)
9. Symphonie Concertante, K. 364, 1st movement

* Disc Two

1. Piano Concerto in E flat, K. 482, 3rd movement
2. The Marriage of Figaro, Act III, Ecco la Marcia
3. The Marriage of Figaro, Act IV, Ah Tutti Contenti
4. Don Giovanni, Act II, Commendatore scene
5. Zaide aria, Ruhe Sanft
6. Requiem, K. 626, Introitus (orchestra introduction)
7. Requiem: Dies Irae
8. Requiem: Rex Tremendae Majestatis
9. Requiem:Confutatis
10. Requiem: Lacrimosa
11. Piano Concerto in D minor, K. 466, 2nd movement

Movie awards at the Oscars: Best Picture, Best Actor (F. Murray Abraham as Antonio Salieri), Best Director (Forman), Costume Design (Theodor Pistek), Adapted Screenplay (Shaffer), Art Direction, Best Makeup, and Best Sound

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