Amadeus Biopic

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Milos Forman’s movie Amadeus produced in 1984 is both great as far as theatrics go and telling a story, but ultimately rather portrays an inaccurate depiction of Mozart’s life. Told from the flash back perspective of an aged Antonio Salieri in an insane asylum to a priest for a confession, the movie reveals Antonio's introduction to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, his professional career with Mozart, and his bitter rivalry and betrayal of Mozart. The film depicts an inaccurate account of Mozart’s life but still delivers on the pieces which he composed.

Throughout the film, we’re exposed to what are clearly historical inaccuracies. I understand that this film is an adaptation of the original Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus performed on Broadway in the 1980’s and for purely theatrical purposes to endow the story with a plot, these changes had to either be implemented or just purely fabricated in order for the story to make sense. However, some of the erroneous interpretations of Mozart’s life are just impossible to ignore for anyone who even had even the simplest understanding of his life, such as myself. The predominant trait of Mozart that stuck out to me like a sore thumb was his high pitched cackling laughter. The movie’s laugh for Amadeus was constructed from letters that referenced Mozart having an “infectious, giddy laugh” much like “metal scraping glass” according to Forman. However, Robert L. Marshall, author of “Film as Musicology: Amadeus,” discredits this notion as there were no citations that provided the existence of such letters. Since Mozart lived over two centuries ago, there’s no possible way to know exactly how he sounded. However, the brilliant Mozart in the film is supposed to be Gods creature (The Latin translation of Amadeus translates to “lover of God” or “beloved by God”) that usurps the mediocre Salieris position as the “voice of God.” So in effect, his laugh is God mocking Salieri in his mediocrity which further drives the frustration and anger of Salieri towards Mozart thus pushing the plot along. While we’re on that subject, there is little evidence that Mozart and Salieri actually rivaled each other to the extreme that the movie depicts. Certainly, they were rivals, but they were professional rivals. By professional rivals, I mean that even though they often butted heads in their pursuit of music and their attempted publicity of their works, they still admired and respected each other greatly. Despite Salieri being the inferior musician, he still pooled great respect from Emperor Joseph II and his subjects and served as court composer, director of the Italian opera, and court conductor. Mozart on the other hand came as an outsider therefore did not possess the same influence or reputation as Salieri. To me, this just appears to be the politics of music; it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Regardless, Salieri really didn’t have a reason to hate Mozart as much as the movie shows because his influence alone virtually neutralized Mozart as a threat. I’m sure when Mozart attempted to get his operas on the Italian stages it must have certainly irked Salieri, but never to the point of violence. However, once again the fiction is created in order to develop a sensical plot line. Without that aggressive rivalry, there’s no movie. One last thing that I personally found confusing is that absence of Joesph Haydn from the entire movie. History tells us that Mozart and Haydn met somewhere 1783 or 1784 and instantly hit it off. They both admired each other’s work immensely and Mozart even went as far as to dedicate six string quartets to Haydn as a tribute to the father of the string quartet. Throughout their lives, they were in correspondence with one another up until Mozart’s death. However, despite this documented historical fact, Haydn is still left out of the movie. The movie itself is about two famous classical composers so why not add Haydn to attract Haydn fans to the play or movie? One can only...
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