Amadeus (1984) is not a musical about the legendary Mozart. The man who brought the world the ‘divine’ operas The Magic Flute, The Marriage of Figaro, and Don Giovanni, among others, are recreated in part in Amadeus. I know that some people liked the musical episodes in this film more than the story, but the story, the production and performances are also fine.
It is no straightforward, sentimentalized bio-pic of the musical genius, who wrote his first symphony at age five (a fact which I forever remember in the extended remix of Falco’s Rock Me Amadeus.).
Perhaps some inspiration could be leveraged from his life, but not in this film.
Amadeus, based on the play by Anthony Shaffer, takes liberties from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s life and imagines his descent at the hands of another Austrian composer, who in history perhaps had a good relationship with Mozart.
This man, Salieri, is fictionalized as rival in the film, who appears friendly and well-mannered but seethes with jealousy at Mozart’s better abilities and gifts in music.
Salieri was also disillusioned by Mozart’s appetite for the seamier side of life when Mozart’s music held a rare purity of sound, beauty, and skill. Salieri plotted Mozart’s downfall in a silently brooding and calculated effort to swipe the man of genius from his pedestal and put this “trained monkey” in his place.
Cold hearted snake Salieri was, his obsession to be the best consumed him. Yet he would have never reached Mozart’s heights.
His confession to a priest comes after his suicide attempt, because of his guilt at doing the unthinkable, to rid the world of Mozart and another human being.
Mozart’s music is what Salieri connects with. It is flawless and remarkably skilled yet triggers Salieri’s base instincts, instincts which have nothing to do with Mozart’s music, but with Salieri’s nature.
In the end, from a bird’s eye view, God who bestows the gifts has no favourites, which is an observation about life that may grieve some. But it can give us a perspective that drains the viral fluid of our jealousy and replaces it with the serum of understanding.
Revised version, original published Entertainmentnutz.com, 2000. Amadeus (1984) Starring: F. Murray Abraham, Tom Hulce, Elizabeth Berridge. Director: Milos Forman.