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Amadeus - Movie Review

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"Amadeus" - Movie Review

One might think a biopic about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart would be a period piece about Mozart's prolific musical talent and tragic life, Amadeus however, is not entirely Mozart's story. In Amadeus, Director Milos Forman and Screenwriter Peter Schaffer took a different tack by telling Mozart's (Tom Hulce) story through the eyes of a bitter, envious adversary. The rival, composer Antonio Salieri (F. Murray Abraham), narrates the story while in an asylum following a suicide attempt decades after Mozart's death. The film chronicles the Mozart's life from 1781 to 1881, starting with his much anticipated return to Vienna for the first time since his childhood at the behest of Austrian emperor Joseph II (Jeffrey Jones). Salieri, then the court composer to the emperor, upon hearing of Mozart's musical prowess, eagerly anticipates meeting the young prodigy. Much to his chagrin he finds Mozart to be an undisciplined, self-indulgent oaf, with no regard for the rules of decorum and a vulgar tongue. Mozart's music however, lives up to its reputation, and Salieri becomes obsessed with its ethereal beauty and perfection. Salieri's own compositions are pedestrian and mediocre at best, despite his lifelong devotion to his craft. A pious man, Salieri has pledged his devotion and chastity to God in exchange for musical talent. It is only after hearing Mozart's compositions that he comprehends his own limitations. Believing that God is speaking through Mozart's music, Salieri wonders aloud why God "would choose as his instrument such a vulgar man." Having devoted his entire life to serving God through music, Salieri becomes incensed by his rival's seemingly divine brilliance and believes that God has punished him by letting him see "true beauty" but not possess it. Vowing revenge on God and "his creation," Salieri sets out to destroy Mozart's reputation by seeing that his operas, though brilliant, fail to draw an audience. Seizing on Mozart's despair and guilt over his failure and the sudden death of his father, a disguised Salieri commissions a Requiem mass from Mozart which he plans to pass off as his own creation.

Though Amadeus is rife with great performances; the finest come from the lead actors, Tom Hulce and F. Murray Abraham. Hulce's Mozart is a brilliant rendering of the role and perhaps his finest performance. Within five minutes of Hulce's appearance on screen, we know all we need to know about the character. Here is a man possessed of such genius as to write a full scale opera at the age of 9, yet he is content to make crude jokes and chase women. Hulce's Mozart is the rock-star of his day, a total hedonist; living well beyond his means with an appetite for fine clothing, fine wine and beautiful women. The character's zeal for the trappings of celebrity is matched only by his passion for his music. Perhaps the most endearing aspect of Hulce's Mozart is his infectious laugh; the high-pitched giggle perfectly embodies his infantile behavior and lack of self-discipline. Abraham's subtlety and prowess as an actor is on full display here as well as he makes palpable the loathing and malice of a man obsessed. He seethes at his once beloved God for denying him glory only to bestow it upon such a "vile creature" as Mozart. Abraham brings further depth to this role by portraying Salieri as both a young man full of spite and an old man full of regret. The film's finest moments occur in one of its final scenes where Salieri assists a dying Mozart in finishing the requiem mass

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