Amadeus (1984)

Biography, Drama, Music
F. Murray Abraham, Tom Hulce, Elizabeth Berridge, Roy Dotrice
The incredible story of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, told by his peer and secret rival Antonio Salieri - now confined to an insane asylum.
A lavish, entertaining, powerful film about the life and influence, both positive and negative, of one of Western culture's great artists.
  • Warner Bros. Pictures Company:
  • PG Rated:
  • IMDB link IMDB:
  • 19 Sep 1984 Released:
  • 16 Dec 1997 DVD Release:
  • $86.8k Box office:

Trailer:

Amadeus Speaks for All Mankind10/10

In 1984, Saul Zaentz, Peter Shaffer and Milos Forman collaborated in bringing a truly remarkable life to the silver screen. The story of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, through the eyes of rival composer, Antonio Salieri. The film is complete with an insightful script (courtesy of Mr. Shaffer), magnificent acting, wondrous sets and costume designs, incredible choreography (thanks to Twyla Tharp), and, above all, the glorious music of Mozart himself.

The movie of Salieri's life, through which Mozart played an integral part, is told in flashback mode, beginning in around the year 1822. An old and perhaps emotionally disturbed Antonio Salieri attempts suicide, and in doing so, apologizes for killing Mozart some 31 years earlier. He survives and is admitted to an insane asylum, where he tells a young priest his tale of jealousy and mediocrity.

The priest is fascinated and alternately troubled by the lengthy and emotional story. Salieri tells of growing up in Italy with a father who did not care for music; and how he rejoiced for the chance to go to Vienna after his father's untimely death. He tells of how he first had met the young Mozart, and how immature and dirty minded Mozart was. He also tells of how "The Creature" had an intimate relationship with the girl that Salieri had cared for. Most importantly, however, he confided in the priest that he had learned to hate God for giving him a deep love of music, only to deny him the talent to create truly memorable music. He thought God had given him Mozart to mock him. Salieri's heart filled with such rage, such hatred and such jealousy, that he had vowed to himself to make God an enemy and to kill the young Mozart.

As the movie moves along, carrying with it a deep sadness of the human condition, it also celebrates life by giving the audience joyous music, wonderful atmosphere and a general appreciation of humanity for not only eighteenth century Europe, but in any age where music speaks for our emotions.

The movie won eight Academy Awards in March of 1985. The only reason it did not win nine was that Tom Hulce was nominated for best actor instead of best supporting actor. He actually was in a supporting role, and in a strange twist of irony, F. Murray Abraham won the best actor statuette; citing probably the only time when Salieri beat out Mozart in anything.

The movie itself was shot in Prague where Milos Forman said "(It) is a gem because it's possible to pivot the camera a full three hundred and sixty degrees and never encounter a modern vision." Very few new sets had to be built, as the scenes and buildings they found were quite often apropos to their needs.

Amadeus works well on virtually every cinematic plane that exists. It is a masterpiece that must be viewed multiple times to receive what the film has to offer. The emotions of humanity, through the eyes of the troubled Salieri, indeed speak for all of mediocrity. He is their champion and their king.
Great Movie5/10

OH! This movie is WONDERFUL, this movie is BEAUTIFUL! I just love it, and not because of my fixation on Mozart, but because it is a beautifully made, completely moving work of art.

What many people do not seem to understand is that the film is entirely Salieri's--it is NOT in any way about Mozart himself, nor is it a biography about the composer. It is about Salieri's madness and obsession WITH Mozart, and yet because the character of Mozart is played so unforgettably by Tom Hulce in such an unconventional performance, the viewer takes most notice of him and will think him the central figure. The film chooses to highlight the comparison of mediocrity versus genius; Mozart is obviously the better of the two composers, and Salieri can see his own mediocrity and recognize his inferiority to Mozart so well that he is driven insane. Watch the film again; while it is true much biographical information about Mozart's life is given while telling us relatively little on Salieri's, you will see that the purpose of this is only to highlight Mozart's genius, his natural and uncanny abilities that come so easily to him. We see how his life affects Salieri's directly and we see Salieri old in his wheelchair, long after Mozart has died, still being affected by it.

One might say "Then WHY is it called 'Amadeus?'" as that is Mozart's middle name, and naming the film after him would certainly cause one to believe that the central figure would have the title (was not "Forrest Gump" about Forrest Gump?) But why, then, "Amadeus?" Why not "Mozart" or "Wolfgang," the only names he is referred to as in the movie? Look at the connotative meaning of the name "Amadeus:" In Latin it means "Loved by God." It's so perfect, so fitting that this should be the title; Peter Schaffer could not have asked for better! Not only does Salieri throughout the entirety of the movie express his disdain for Mozart, but he keeps coming back to God: "Why does God not give me talent? Why Mozart? Why does God love him, but not me?" Indeed, Mozart IS loved by God, if God's love is shown through gifts and abilities. "Amadeus" does not stand for Mozart himself, but for a major theme expressed throughout the film.

Oh, the themes, motifs, symbolism and hidden meanings! But what of the movie itself? The brilliant acting, the beautiful dresses and jackets, the unforgettable scenes? F. Murray Abraham is perfectly cast in this perfectly acted role; he grimaces and holds back hatred so perfectly, and nothing about his performance makes you think he is acting. Tom Hulce as Mozart is wonderful-most will remember his annoying laugh that bursts forth at the most inappropriate of times. The most memorable scene occurs at the end, when Mozart is on his deathbed, dictating his requiem to Salieri as Salieri struggles still to understand the brilliant notes flowing through Mozart's mind. The importance lies not in the fact that Mozart is dying (though his departure from the movie, for me, was quite traumatic) but in seeing how Salieri must have more of Mozart's work; he hates this man and yet he recognizes the brilliance of his music, a brilliance he will never posses. Some of the most enjoyable scenes depict productions of Mozart's operas; "The Abduction from the Seraglio" finale in the beginning is bright and joyous; "The Magic Flute" Queen of the Night aria scene is shown and contains of the most beautiful arias I have ever heard. Even if you don't like opera, you will be amazed at how high the soprano must sing.

This is just my absolute favorite movie, and I certainly did not analyze it like this the first time I saw it. I did not see everything either, the important themes and such, but every time I watched it I got more out of it. And it really is just so enjoyable, so funny, so perfect. The music, the actors-there is just something about them. Perhaps because none went on to be stars, and all you see is the movie, not the actors. I am basing everything on the original cut, not the new director's version, which I have seen, but I have entirely different things to say about it. The original is perfect as is. Watch it, you will see what I mean. You'll love it. I know I do!


A rare masterpiece5/10

Amadeus is an extremely well written story, covering the last ten years of Mozart's massively prolific yet unusual life. I have read much that it paints a rather inaccurate picture of the genius's life, and yet I am not dissuaded from ranking this film as one of the greatest made. The historical problem should be addressed first, because it draws the most criticism. I would advise anyone to shut out the self-righteous whining of those people who fancy themselves as Mozart experts, when they really have little solid evidence for their assertions. History is only seen by us in fragments, be they documents or eye witness accounts. These fragments certainly do not amount to a full picture of events, and so Milos Forman and Peter Schaeffer are perfectly entitled to form their own story of genius.

This issue aside, the picture is one of fantastic colour and scale, crammed with lavish costumes and wonderful architecture. This keeps the eyes occupied, but the ears get the biggest reward. The film uses a large amount of Mozart's music, and does so in a way which is carefully considered. For example, when the insane and enfeebled Antonio Salieri (F. Murray Abraham) reminisces on the sheer beauty of Mozart's compositions, we hear music to match his words, "And there... an oboe, high and unwavering... until a clarinet takes over, and forms a phrase of such longing..." The effect is deeply moving. Examples of this collaboration of music and picture are many; when Mozart (Tom Hulce) swaggers through the streets of Vienna taking swigs from a bottle of wine, we hear a jolly piano concerto; and he is hurled into a mass grave to the sorrowful Lacrimosa of his requiem mass. The music should move any viewer, however much they confess to hating anything classical. If you haven't seen this film, watch, or rather listen, for the scene where Salieri inspects samples of Mozart's music. The originality in switching the music as he turns the pages is profound. The acting is superb, particularly from Abraham. Hulce's cackle provides comic relief, and his wonderfully child-like mannerisms are testament not only to his acting skills, but to Forman's exceptional direction and vision. On the other hand, we are shown two moments of antithesis, namely when he is composing at his billiards table (his face taking on a look of such mature concentration), and when he is dictating his Confutatis to Salieri. Yes, we do get to see Mozart compose, and talk about tonic, dominant, second measures, etc. I would have preferred to have seen more of his thought processes though, because Forman's glimpse of how Mozart applied his genius is extremely exciting to watch, but short lived. Characterisations are brilliantly engineered. Salieri is scheming and yet outwardly indifferent to Mozart. We can see that he loves the music of his superior, and yet is torn apart by his own inadequacy. Inadequacy is a fitting word for Salieri's skill as portrayed by Forman, who wanted to give the greatest contrast possible in terms of the virtuosity of the two men, without making Salieri look like a complete cretin. He is, after all, known as maestro Salieri. Constanze Mozart (Elizabeth Berridge) is on first appearances a giggling girl, and yet through the course of the film we are shown that she is very shrewd, and is ruthless when dealing with finance. Roy Dotrice's Leopold Mozart has a masterful air, and maintains an oppressive paternal hold over his son even after his death, the analogy being the use of an enveloping cloak. The cloak is used as part of Leopold's street wear, but is also part of the costume of the statue in the first showing of Don Giovanni, where Salieri is certain that the imposing figure of the giant statue represents the recently deceased Leopold. In short, Forman presents us with a marvelous psychological essay on weakness and power, both superficial and real. This is obviously no average biographical motion picture, but a film conceived with an intelligence nearing that of it's subject. We are shown Mozart's virtuosity several times, which again provides wonderful excitement. He not only plays variations of his music thought up on the spot (at the party scene) but plays them in the styles of other composers, upside down. He infuriates Salieri by arranging a welcoming march actually written for Mozart (and taken to be wonderful by the Italian up to this point), showing off his outstanding skills whilst looking around at the assembled courtiers and cackling with glee. Those who have watched this scene with me have either laughed or smiled in sheer wonderment at a majestic combination of music, acting and direction. This film is a gem, combining sometimes ridiculous comedy with deep tragedy. On the negative side, it would benefit opera buffs more than concert goers, because opera is the dominant musical genre of the movie. (Specially designed opera productions have been woven into the film; greatly extending it's length but adding that extra colour and vibrancy). The film becomes heavy and slow moving as it nears its astonishingly refreshing conclusion at the lunatic asylum, noticeable largely due to the contrast with a lighter beginning. This may test the patience of some viewers, but once the credits roll, I guarantee that the majority of those who have watched Amadeus will be struck by the passing of such a wonderfully colourful and rewarding masterpiece, and will not want to move from their seats until the tranquil piano concerto fades away. The film deserves all its eight Oscars, and I give it 9 out of 10.
Ravishing in sound and vision5/10

The unseen star of this film is the Academy of St Martin's in the Field, London. Buy the soundtrack and you will be rewarded with some of the most stunning music you can hear. Mozart's music excells with brilliant treatment and dies with a bad performance. And that, after all, is what the film is about. Without his music, Mozart would be lost in time, a fate that the narrator of the story, the composer Salieri, saw as his own. Ironically, while Salieri has indeed been completely overshadowed by Mozart, his music still survives and has its followers.

But beyond the music this is an outstanding film. Set in the prettiest and most flamboyant century of the last millennium, it is visually stunning and the writer's portrayal of jealousy is perceptive. The casting of the Austrian King and courtiers, (indeed all the actors in this film) that Mozart needed to impress capture the gentility and courtesy of the time, and also subtly shows their growing indignation and impatience at Mozart's personality and behaviour; the presentation of Mozart as punk musician is probably the only failing in the film. As a theatrical device to show that genius can come in disastrous packages it succeeds well, but anyone with any historic sense of social ettiquette or manners will know that Mozart's sill y
behaviour would be well wide of the truth, as might, perhaps, be the concept of Salieri as murderer-in-chief. Only in the final scenes is Mozart's brilliance as a composer truly explored in what amounts to a deconstruction of his final composition - his moving, uncompleted and poignant Requiem mass.

Another unintended star in this film are the candle lit sets and theatres of the 18th Century; their operas and drama ooze a magic that is lacking in the present world and which modern producers might well try to reintroduce; so lovely are these buildings with their flickering lights and theatrical techniques that one is left desperate to to seek out these rare theatres to experience them.

This film leaves one breathless from its visual beauty, its magnificent score and the choreography, indeed, of the two together. Mozart's life had the air of tragedy, and his undoubted genius speaks to us now and forever. This film is a monument to the skills of the writer, maker, performers and, of course, Mozart's music. If you have not yet done so, see it.
One of the greatest films of all time.10/10

One of the greatest movies of all time. This is a movie that speaks for itself. Beautiful Cinematography and stellar performances by all especially F. Murray Abraham who carries the film. Tom Hulce was a terrific choice for this movie. True this is historically incorrect but it doesn't matter this film works on so many different levels... the music ahhh the music. Mozart is pure genius and his music touches this film and everyone involved. You can just sense that Mozart's inspiration drove everyone on this film to perfection. A must see film for all!