Film Review: IMDbinge - Amadeus (1984)

Film Review: IMDbinge - Amadeus (1984)

Catherine's 2016 Challenge - watch all 250 of IMDb's top rated films. Today she reviews Amadeus, now currently no. 87 on the list and also on Roger Elbert's list of 'Great Movies'.

I had been meaning to watch Amadeus as I’d found it on the list fairly recently having never even heard of it, and I became curious because I love a good period film, especially if there’s something a bit off-kilter about it. Unfortunately, I ended up watching the director’s cut by accident and I feel I may have gotten a slightly worse experience in that extra twenty minutes - which took the entire run time up to three hours - than the original theatrical release provided. The original release swept the board at the Oscars, garnering eight in total, including Best Picture and Best Actor in a Leading Role for F. Murray Abraham as composer Antonio Salieri. Tom Hulce was also nominated for his role as Mozart, which gives you an idea of the breadth of talent that went into this film. 

Let’s begin by saying that although this film is based on the life of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, it is by no means a historical film. It has received a lot of criticism for being historically inaccurate but I think that is more of a farce than the film’s portrayal of Mozart as a silly, unbearably spoilt young man. Salieri as our retrospective narrator is portrayed as an incredibly jealous contemporary, which causes us to approach his perspective with scepticism. The fact of it being accurate is not really in question, as it makes no bid to portray itself as such. 

The truth is that I didn’t really like it as much as I felt I probably should have. Like many others on the IMDboards, I found Elizabeth Berridge’s performance as Mozart’s wife, Constanze, really grating. The two are purposely portrayed as being rather infantile and it works as part of the narrative but there was something about her that particularly irked me. I also had what was probably a very stuck-up problem with the fact that their accents were all over the place, which is silly because I certainly didn’t care about it in Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette (in which I would now say you can see the influence of Amadeus) so I don’t know why it bothered me so much this time around. Perhaps because Amadeus was before my time I’m having trouble viewing it with the same modern eye as the film about the much-hated Queen of France. Or perhaps it’s because it is easier to see a villain in a sympathetic light than it is to see a hero in a damning one. 

However, having given the film a few days to settle in my mind, I’m not as disappointed as I initially was. The crux of the film is about fear of being mediocre in the face of pure genius, which is something that in a world with an ever-increasing population, many of us can relate to. It is not simply the fear of ‘failure’ exactly but of not being something extraordinary that haunts us.

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