Amadeus, which could have been more lengthily titled ‘The Rise and Fall of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’, is an outstanding film from the Academy Awards’ back-catalogue. Winners of eight Oscars, it deserved them all, despite its many historical inaccuracies and liberties. An extremely watchable film, it never drags despite its length, and each scene tells.
Amadeus is a film of contrasts. It depicts Mozart as a fun-loving wally, reminiscent of Yahoo Serious in Young Einstein (or at least his hair). His music, always sublime, provides the soundtrack to the film and makes clear the disparity between it and his outward personality (at least here). It’s possible the film libels Mozart with this playful presentation, but if it does, it does it in a charming way. The distinction is reinforced by the assertions of Salieri, the narrator, that Mozart was a vulgar man, but his music was not. The narration is sometimes presented with visuals, and intercuts with the visuals of Mozart’s life. Richard Frank is superb as the priest of few words: the confessional foil for Salieri’s tales of immorality and blasphemy: his head is often in his hands, unbelieving.
Amadeus is sadly notorious for its use of American language and phraseology throughout, despite being set mostly in Vienna. Although cultural ignorance is Hollywood is wide-spread, in this case, amazingly, it doesn’t seem to matter. The culture is well presented, and besides, it isn’t the main thrust of the film: the relationships between Mozart, his wife, and Salieri are. So this isn’t just excusable, it’s almost justifiable: in fact, with two high-quality leads such as Tom Hulce and F. Murray Abraham, it’s easy to see why director Miloš Forman decided to keep the language as he did.
This film is a classic, and is a fantastic introduction to, and reproduction of, Mozart and the world of classical opera.