Amadeus (1984)

Amadeus (1984) is based on the play by Anthony Shaffer, who wrote the screenplay, who seems to take liberties from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s life. It imagines his descent at the hands of Austrian composer Salieri, perhaps who had a good relationship with Mozart in actual history, but in this film is filled with jealousy at Mozart’s gift and plans his downfall.

According to the film, Salieri had a hand in composing Mozart’s Requiem on his death bed, this taking the shine off the gloss of Mozart. Mozart is also depicted as a kind of strange buffoon, who partied and was in debt. The film was controversial for these points, but contributing to Mozart’s composition on his death bed is in keeping with the film’s theme—

of Salieri’s chance to be as good or even better than Mozart, while both are at work, and still keeping Salieri in character, polished and refined, a carefully veiled veneer.

The place and means to find one’s moment of glory is a sad indictment on Salieri, as he put Mozart on his deathbed. He could never handle the fact of Mozart’s superior talent. Therefore, he slowly killed him.

He struggles with God having favourites, apparently Mozart being the ‘apple’ of God’s eye.

He confesses murder to a listening, bewildered, theologically inept priest who does not have answers for the guilty man. Even in confession, Salieri still cannot come to terms with God giving Mozart the better gift and not him, a hint of Cain and Abel here.

It says that ambition beyond your station can consume your very life, eventually killing it off. Isn’t it ironic? One thinks to eliminate the obstacles in one’s way, to be the best. Although one never will be. But even to the point of seduction and murder, to be the best.

Better for Salieri to have let the matter go, rather than dwelling on it, easy to say perhaps…Amadeus shows us a sense of entitlement and self-interest that goes unchecked, fueled by the insidious ends of the human condition.

Realizing he’s not as talented, Salieri believes that God has favourites, but can’t understand why God does, and the silence of God is deafening and drives him around the bend.

When Salieri goes ‘mad’, his sense of wanting to be significant is still in tact, even when he’s at rock bottom, but a delusion all the same–he “absolves” the patients in a lunatic asylum for being mediocrities, as he thinks he is their patron saint.

It’s all very dark comedy, and outstanding dramatic poise, and sad (which is always easy to say, though).

The man who was at the top took his talent lightly, but the man without it, seethed. How does one take their lot in life?

Amadeus is kind of black comedy, certainly drama, fused by an internal wit of the human condition and skillful off-kilter moments—such as Mozart’s reaction to his father’s dominance.

I didn’t find Mozart’s characterization off-putting at all. As played by Tom Hulce, Mozart is fun and endearing, a bit of a mad-cap, with a witty sense of humour and a vulnerable streak.

Mozart’s friend and confidante Salieri is mercenary behind a well-mannered veneer, played by F. Murray Abraham with deliberate and polished precision, if a bit too forced at times.

To top it off, Amadeus is a literate, witty, and sumptuous film in all departments, well-acted by all the players, and filled with great classical music and re-enactments of Mozart’s operas.

5 out of 5 stars

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