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S & H Film Review

MOSTLY MOZART: ‘Amadeus’, Barbican Centre, 17th July 2002 (CN)



The Man…The Music…The Madness…The Murder…The Motion Picture

‘Amadeus’ is the latest in a long line of films (think ‘Star Wars’) to be digitally re-mastered, re-edited according to the director’s wishes (the "Director’s Cut") and re-released into the cinema. The reason behind the sudden desire to do this is a little to do with artistic integrity and a lot to do with money.

Do we, the general public, mind the rather obvious attempt at profiteering? Not one jot – we flock to the cinemas to experience some classic films in all their new-found glory and ‘Amadeus’ will be no exception. For once, however, it really is worth it.

‘Amadeus’ was never intended to be a blockbuster. Directed by Milos Forman, best known perhaps for ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’, and based on the Peter Schaffer play (which enjoyed a recent run in the West End with David Suchet as Salieri), it should have been an ‘Art’ film – of little concern to those not interested in classical music and of less interest still to those with any eye for historical accuracy.

Yet it swept the Oscars that year, winning amongst others Best Actor for F. Murray Abraham’s unnerving portrayal of Salieri, beating co-star Tom Hulce, Best Director and Best Picture. It is the strength of the two lead characters that is the key to this film; Salieri’s self-perceived mediocrity strikes an almost too-familiar chord whilst Mozart’s genius – placed on a pedestal by Salieri – is as dazzling as the man is vulgar: the fall of both into insanity is wild and grotesque and watching holds an almost voyeuristic allure.

Against superb acting is an exhilarating soundtrack, made up almost entirely of Mozart’s own works. Occasional poor editing can be forgiven in the face of some undoubted moments of inspiration; for example, towards the end of the film, Mozart’s mounting insanity is reflected in the music as both the ‘Magic Flute Overture’ and his ‘Requiem’ are intertwined in the score. The Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, conducted by Sir Neville Marriner, play this score faultlessly: the quality of their playing is enhanced by the digitalisation – there is certainly an audible difference, especially in terms of clarity.

The real selling point is the extra footage which takes the film to 3 hours; it is mainly taken up with elongated opera scenes. This develops the underlying notion of the film as an homage to Mozart’s work rather than his life.

Christa Norton


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