Posted on 8/08/10 11:04 PM
-Initial Score: 10
-Those who're masters of their craft usually attract both those who have not the perception to appreciate a master's talent and envious peers. The brilliance of Amadeus is anchored around the burden such a peer carries of being the only one to recognize the greatness of a creatively superior person while simultaneously hating him for that very reason. Amadeus is arguably the best film ever made about a man who strives to destroy another who doesn't have to strive at all to create, and while the title may lend insight into the film's subject it's clear that the man who lives in Mozart's shadow is the true focus. We're treated to the significance of classical music because we are witnesses to it's birth in the mind and paper of it's composers so when we hear Mozart's music director Milos Forman conspires with Paul Shaffer who wrote the original play and script it's almost as if we hear it the way envious composer Antonio Salieri hears it. It's very easy to wallow in an artist's art especially with a generous 3 hours to do so and more so when such an artist is so well known but Milos Forman wisely opts to focus on the people behind the art specifically so we can appreciate it because we understand the impact it has on others.
-Antonio Salieri consumed by regret for killing Mozart or more specifically the music of Mozart attempts suicide only to be thrown in an insane asylum and reminisce about his experiences with Mozart to a young priest. As if regailing with details the source of his grief wasn't enough the priest rubs salt in Salieri's wound by not recognizing any of the music he created yet being familiar with the work of his hated and simultaneously loved superior Mozart. Salieri devotes his entire life to becoming a great composer not for the praise it may bring but for the personal satisfaction that mastery of anything accompanies. However, during his efforts he encounters Mozart's music which is more then what Salieri's wildest dreams could afford him and his image of what the inventor of such music could be like is shattered when he finds out Mozart is little more then a selfish and immature man child. There's well documented evidence of the correlation between genius's and the lack of effort they put in to become the iconic figures we know them to be and Mozart is no exception. He's more concerned with women and alcohol then music yet when prompted to play by his father Leopold (Roy Dotrice) he executes to a degree as to make Salieri remark him as "taking dictation from God". Trying so hard and amounting to nothing in comparison to Mozart Salieri can't help but feel contempt for the God who could allow such an undeserving human to possess such a wonderful gift and he takes this self perceived insult so seriously he devotes the rest of his life to bringing down Mozart.
-What separates Salieri from other villains is his love for music, specifically Mozart's. No matter how much he hates the man he has an equally if not larger love for his compositions so much so that he cannot deny this to Mozart himself on his deathbed yet this truth is bittersweet because by feeding his contempt in destroying Mozart he also destroys what he loves most in life. F. Murray Abraham understands this tragic irony makes up the core of Salieri and uses it to portray subtleties that we as an audience understand to have great meaning because they reveal more to us then to anyone in the film. When Salieri smiles everyone else may think he's in agreement or content but we can see right through him to the point where he might as well be snarling and/or crying every time he encounters Mozart or his music. Tom Hulce is great in Amadeus too if for no other reason that he doesn't hold back, and why should he? Mozart is a larger then life figure a man who boasts talent to spare and because he recognizes this (but doesn't recognize that Salieri too shares this knowledge) he acts without impunity expecting everything but in reality gains much less.
-Everyone in Amadeus holds Salieri in higher regard then Mozart except for Salieri and Mozart. Another ironic tragedy arises in the realization that Salieri wants to be as great as everyone thinks he is for personal satisfaction's sake and never reaches that lofty goal while Mozart wants to be recognized publicly for being as great as he really is yet he too never achieves his goal at least not while he's alive.
-As much screen time as Salieri and Mozart get the music of Mozart is an equal in the eyes of the film mainly because Milos Forman makes us hear his music as he creates it only to treat us to a finished piece upon it's completion. Usually accompanied by the practical use of it so audience's in the film react to the music at the same time as the audience of the film but another great nuance here is our reaction differs from those of the opera house attendees because as omniscient viewers we are given the proper context to appreciate that the film's audience doesn't which only helps to underscore the tragedy that is not getting credit where it's due.
-The greatest of the several Shakespearean tragedies in Amadeus even more then Mozart's death may be the audience's realization that all the time Salieri spent trying to torture Mozart could have been better spent on bringing himself to Mozart's level, of course now we'll never know if such a feat was possible. It's hard to accept the reality of how unfair life can be sometimes or in Salieri's case all the time but, to let such misplaced contempt consume a person to such a degree as to rob him/her of any joy life unfair as it may be can bring is the line of thinking Salieri never pondered but Mozart seemed to always have in mind. Salieri outlived Mozart but when comparing the quality of life between the two it's easy to make the argument that what Salieri had before and after Mozart's passing wasn't much of a life so much as it was a self imposed mission to restore a misguided sense of balance. Another tragic irony exists in the legacy of Mozart's music which not only lives to this day but more importantly serves as the final nail in Salieri's coffin is that Mozart eventually got the recognition Salieri always wanted but one must ask is that something Salieri would be pleased to hear or not?