Classic Film Review: Amadeus (1984)

And the Oscar Goes to:

Amadeus, 1984

Directed by: Milos Forman

Starring: F. Murray Abraham, Tom Hulce, Elizabeth Berridge, Simon Callow, Roy Dotrice, Christine Ebersole, Jeffrey Jones, Charles Kay


Amadeus looks at the life of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Tom Hulce) and a fellow composer, who is incredibly envious of him and his work, Antonio Salieri (F. Murray Abraham). The whole film is told through flashbacks from a future date where Salieri has tried to commit suicide so is put into a home, where he repeatedly claims that he killed Mozart. From there a priest, Father Vogler (Richard Frank) implores him to confess his sins and we are taken back to Salieri’s youth. He admits to being a huge, huge fan of the work of Mozart, but is disappointed to find a teenager frolicking around with a girl underneath a table when he was expecting someone more classy. From there Salieri continues to marvel at Mozart’s work, but constantly tries to either keep his popularity down or place bad words here and there about him.

I am not a major fan of the work of Mozart (that is not to say I dislike it, but I haven’t listened to much of it to be a fan), so the soundtrack being all of Mozart’s work wasn’t as instantly-noteworthy to me. The soundtrack is brilliant, though, and is sued throughout the film whether it be in a show or simply a casual scene. There are some moments where Salieri, in his old age, motions his hands as a conductor of an orchestra would and the sounds of the music are played over; the priest can’t hear the music so he just sits there looking bemused at Salieri but the whole scene is wonderful; as Salieri plays out Mozart’s music still in his head.

Salieri’s jealousy in this film is brilliant: he constantly looks angry and criticises the Lord for giving such talents to an immature mind, but whenever he is given or shown work of Mozart he can’t help but marvel in the brilliance of it, which makes for a nice contrast of emotions from him.

Another interesting facet about this film is Mozart’s poverty, with his wife constantly on at him to find paying work and accept whatever terms come with it, despite Mozart’s refusal to be anyone he isn’t. And this creates for a nice bit of tension that build towards the final act where everything comes together: Salieri’s jealousy but admiration, their poverty, Mozart’s failing health, Mozart’s music, it all swirls together in a brilliant group of scenes.

That being said the film is not all brilliant: much like others in this countdown recently it runs for longer than it feels like it should have (at 2 hours and 40 minutes). While like the rest it makes for a satisfying conclusion, as we’re fully invested and knowledgeable of these characters, it is a long time to maintain investment form us and for constant brilliance from them: naturally the film slows down at points.

A very finely acted film, with a beautiful soundtrack playing over all of Mozart’s music and a nice plot with a nice finish, however it could have shaved twenty minutes away and felt a lot better, but still an enjoyable comedy-drama on Mozart’s life and a jealous admirer.


Plot: * * *     Acting: * * * *     Writing: * * * *     Presentation: * * * *

Overall Rating: * * * ¾

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