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
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.