Amadeus (film)

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theatrical release poster
Directed by Miloš Forman
Produced by Saul Zaentz
Written by Peter Shaffer
Starring F. Murray Abraham
Tom Hulce
Elizabeth Berridge
Music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Cinematography Miroslav Ondříček
Editing by Michael Chandler
Distributed by Orion Pictures
Release date(s) 19 September 1984
Running time 160 minutes
180 minutes (director's cut)
Country United States
Language English
Budget US$18 million
Gross revenue US$52 million

Amadeus is a 1984 drama directed by Miloš Forman and written by Peter Shaffer. Based on Shaffer's stage play Amadeus, the film is based loosely on the lives of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonio Salieri, two composers who lived in Vienna, Austria, during the later half of the 18th century.

The film was nominated for 53 awards and received 40, including 8 Academy Awards (including Best Picture), 4 BAFTA Awards, 4 Golden Globes, and a DGA Award. In 1998, Amadeus was ranked the 53rd best American movie by the American Film Institute on its AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies list; however, the movie dropped off the AFI's 10th anniversary edition of the list in 2007.


[edit] Plot

The film begins in 1823 as Salieri, as an old man, attempts suicide by slitting his throat while loudly begging forgiveness for having killed a long-deceased Mozart. Placed in a lunatic asylum for the act, he is visited by a young priest who seeks to take his confession. Salieri is sullen and uninterested but eventually warms to the priest and launches into a long "confession" about the relationship between himself and Mozart. As the scenes later cut back to this dialog, it seems as if the telling of the story with the listening priest goes on through the night and into the next day.

Salieri reminisces about his youth, particularly about his devotion to God and his love for music and how he pledges to God to remain celibate as a sacrifice if he can somehow devote his life to music. He describes how his father's plans for him were to go into business, but Salieri suggests that the sudden death of his father, who choked to death during a meal, was "a miracle" that allowed Salieri to pursue a career in music. In his narrative, he is suddenly an adult joining the 18th century cultural elite in Vienna, the "city of musicians." Salieri begins his career as a devout, God-fearing man who believes his success and talent as a composer are God’s rewards for his piety. He is content as the court composer for Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II.

Mozart arrives in Vienna with his patron, Count Hieronymus von Colloredo, the Archbishop of Salzburg. While Salieri secretly observes Mozart at the Archbishop's palace, they are not properly introduced. Salieri sees that Mozart off-stage is irreverent and lewd. He also first recognizes the immense talent displayed in the adult works of Mozart. In 1781, when Mozart meets the Emperor, Salieri presents Mozart with a little "March of Welcome," which he had toiled to create. At this meeting, Mozart first displays a childish high-pitched laugh which is heard, at times, throughout the rest of the film. After hearing the march only once, Mozart spontaneously "improves" this piece with minimal effort, transforming Salieri's "trifle" into the "Non più andrai" march from his opera The Marriage of Figaro.

Salieri reels at the notion of God speaking through the childish, petulant Mozart, whose music he regards as miraculous. Gradually, Salieri’s faith is shaken. He believes God, through Mozart's genius, is cruelly laughing at his musical mediocrity. Salieri's struggles with God are intercut with scenes showing Mozart's own trials and tribulations with life in Vienna: pride at the initial reception of his music, anger and disbelief over his subsequent treatment by the Italians of the Emperor's court, happiness with his wife Constanze and his son Wolfgang, and grief at the death of his father Leopold. Mozart becomes more desperate as the family's expenses increase and his commissions decrease. When Salieri learns of Mozart's financial straits, he finally sees his chance to avenge himself, using "God's Beloved" as the instrument.

Salieri hatches a complex plot to gain ultimate victory over Mozart and over God. He wears a mask and costume similar to one he had seen Leopold wear and "commissions" the young composer to write a requiem mass, with a down payment and the promise of an enormous sum upon completion. Mozart begins to write perhaps his greatest work, the Requiem Mass in D minor, unaware of the true identity of his mysterious patron and his scheme: to somehow kill him when the work was complete. Glossing over any details of how he might commit the murder, Salieri dwells on the admiration of his peers and the court as they applauded the magnificent Requiem when he claims that he is the author of the piece. Only Salieri and God would know the truth – that Mozart wrote his own requiem mass, and that God could only watch while Salieri finally received the fame and renown he felt he deserved.

Mozart's financial woes continue and the composing demands of the Requiem and The Magic Flute drive him to the point of exhaustion as he alternates work between the two pieces. Constanze leaves him and takes their son with her. His health worsens and he collapses during the premiere performance of The Magic Flute. Salieri takes the stricken Mozart home and tricks him into working on the Requiem. Mozart dictates while Salieri transcribes throughout the night. As Constanze returns that morning, she tells Salieri to leave. Constanze locks the manuscript away despite Salieri's objections, but as she goes to wake her husband, Mozart is dead. The Requiem is left unfinished, and Salieri is left powerless as Mozart's body is hauled out of Vienna for burial in a mass grave.

The film ends as Salieri finishes recounting his story to the visibly shaken young priest. Salieri concludes that God killed Mozart rather than allow Salieri to share in even an ounce of his glory, and that he is consigned to be the "patron saint of mediocrity." Salieri absolves the priest of his own mediocrity and blesses his fellow patients as he is taken away in his wheelchair. The last sound heard before the credits roll is Mozart's comical laughter.

[edit] Production

Kenneth Branagh, per his autobiography Beginning, was originally considered to play Mozart in the film, but was bypassed in favor of Hulce when Forman decided to make the film with an American cast, so that US audiences would not be "distracted" by the British accents. Hulce reportedly used John McEnroe's mood swings as a source of inspiration for his portrayal of Mozart's unpredictable genius.[1]

Meg Tilly was cast as Mozart's wife Constanze, but she tore a ligament in her leg the day before shooting started.[2]She was replaced by Elizabeth Berridge. Simon Callow, who played Mozart in the original London stage production of Amadeus, was cast as Emanuel Schikaneder, the librettist of The Magic Flute.

The film was shot on location in Prague, Kroměříž and Vienna. Notably, Forman was able to shoot scenes in the Count Nostitz Theatre, where Don Giovanni and La Clemenza di Tito debuted two centuries before. Several other scenes were shot at the Barrandov Studios.

[edit] Reception

In 1985, the film was nominated for eleven Academy Awards, including a rare double nomination for Best Actor – Hulce and Abraham were each nominated for their portrayals of Mozart and Salieri. The movie won eight Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Actor (Abraham), Best Director (Forman), Costume Design (Theodor Pištěk), Adapted Screenplay (Shaffer), Art Direction (Patrizia von Brandenstein), Best Makeup, and Best Sound. The film was nominated for but did not win Oscars for Best Cinematography and Best Editing. Amadeus and The English Patient are the only two Best Picture winners to never enter the weekend box office top 5 after rankings began being recorded in 1982.[3][4] Amadeus peaked at #6 during its 8th weekend in theaters.

The movie was nominated for six Golden Globes (Hulce and Abraham were nominated together) and won four, including awards to Forman, Abraham, Shaffer, and Golden Globe Award for Best Picture - Drama. Jeffrey Jones was nominated for Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture Drama. Forman also received the Directors Guild of America Award for his work.

In his essay collection The Relativity of Wrong, Isaac Asimov praised Abraham's depiction of Salieri and voiced his support for Abraham to receive the Oscar. Abraham won the award for his portrayal of Salieri, just as Ian McKellen won a Tony Award for his portrayal of Salieri in the 1980 Broadway theatre production.

At the end of the Oscar ceremony, Laurence Olivier came on stage to present the Oscar for Best Picture. As Olivier thanked the Academy for inviting him, he was already opening the envelope. Instead of announcing the nominees, he simply read, "The winner is ‘Amadeus’." An AMPAS official quickly went onstage to confirm Olivier's announcement and signaled that all was well. Producer Saul Zaentz mentioned the other nominees in his acceptance speech: The Killing Fields, A Passage to India, Places in the Heart and A Soldier's Story.

The film had an effect on popular music and continues to influence writers and musicians. One well-known example is "Rock Me Amadeus", by Austrian pop artist Falco, which was a hit in 1985. Finnish metal band Children of Bodom uses Salieri's quote, "From now on we are enemies... you and I..." as the introduction to their song "Warheart". The album Beyond Abilities by progressive metal band Warmen uses quotations from the film and includes a track entitled "Salieri Strikes Back". Warmen's later album Accept the Fact also uses a quote from Amadeus and has a song called "Return of Salieri".

Abraham appears in the 1993 film Last Action Hero. The young boy, Danny, tells Arnold Schwarzenegger not to trust Abraham because "He killed Mozart!" Schwarzenegger asks "In a movie?" Danny responds, "Amadeus! It won eight Oscars!"

Amadeus has been parodied several times, including in episodes of Family Guy ("It Takes a Village Idiot, and I Married One"), The Simpsons ("Margical History Tour"), Freakazoid, Mr. Show, 30 Rock ("Succession"), and How I Met Your Mother ("The Best Burger in New York").

American Film Institute recognition

[edit] Music

  • The Choruses
    • Academy Chorus of St Martin In The Fields, conducted by Laszlo Heltay
    • Ambrosian Opera Chorus, conducted by John McCarthy
    • The Choristers of Westminster Abbey, conducted by Simon Preston
  • Instrumental soloists
    • Concerto for Piano in Eb, K482, performed by Ivan Moravec
    • Concerto for Piano in D minor, K466, performed by Imogen Cooper
    • Adagio in C minor for Glass Harmonica, K617, performed by Thomas Bloch with The Brussels Virtuosi, conducted by Marc Grauwels

[edit] Original soundtrack album

(all composed by Mozart except as noted)

  • Disc One
  1. Symphony No. 25 in G minor, K 183, 1st movement
  2. Stabat Mater: Quando Corpus Morietur and Amen (Pergolesi - performed by the Choristers of Westminster Abbey, directed by Simon Preston)
  3. Early 18th Century Gypsy Music: Bubak and Hungaricus
  4. Serenade for Winds, K. 361, 3rd movement
  5. The Abduction from the Seraglio, Turkish Finale
  6. Symphony No. 29 in A, K 201, 1st movement
  7. Concerto for Two Pianos, K. 365, 3rd movement
  8. Mass in C minor, K. 427, Kyrie (Mozart)
  9. Symphonie Concertante, K. 364, 1st movement
  • Disc Two
  1. Piano Concerto in E flat, K. 482, 3rd movement
  2. The Marriage of Figaro, Act III, Ecco la Marcia
  3. The Marriage of Figaro, Act IV, Ah Tutti Contenti
  4. Don Giovanni, Act II, Commendatore scene
  5. Zaide aria, Ruhe Sanft
  6. Requiem, K. 626, Introitus (orchestra introduction)
  7. Requiem: Dies Irae
  8. Requiem: Rex Tremendae Majestatis
  9. Requiem:Confutatis
  10. Requiem: Lacrimosa
  11. Piano Concerto in D minor, K. 466, 2nd movement

The original soundtrack to Amadeus reached #56 on Billboard's album charts, making it one of the most popular recordings of classical music ever. All of the tracks were composed by Mozart, save an early Hungarian folk tune and the final movement Quando Corpus Morietur et Amen by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, from his famous Stabat Mater.

The film features some music that is not included on the original soundtrack album release. As stated above, except where specified, all tracks were performed by the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, conducted by Sir Neville Marriner, and all were performed specifically for use in the film. According to the film commentary by Forman and Schaffer, Marriner agreed to score the film if Mozart's music was completely unchanged from Mozart's original scores. Marriner did add some notes to Salieri's music that are noticeable in the beginning of the film, as Salieri begins his confession.

Music featured in the film but not included on the soundtrack album (later extended version was included):

  • The Magic Flute, Queen of the Night aria Der Hölle Rache performed by June Anderson
  • The Magic Flute, Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen... (Papageno), and Pa-pa-gena! … Pa-pa-geno! (Papageno and Papagena) performed by Brian Kay and Gillian Fisher.

[edit] Awards

[edit] United States

[edit] 57th Academy Awards

  • Nominated

[edit] 42nd Golden Globe Awards

  • Won (4)
  • Best Actor - Drama (F. Murray Abraham)
  • Best Director (Miloš Forman)
  • Best Picture - Drama
  • Best Screenplay (Peter Shaffer)
  • Nominated
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama (Tom Hulce)
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture (Jeffrey Jones)

[edit] LAFCA Awards 1984

  • Won (4)
  • Best Actor (F. Murray Abraham tied with Albert Finney for Under the Volcano)
  • Best Director (Miloš Forman)
  • Best Picture
  • Best Screenplay (Peter Shaffer)

[edit] American Cinema Editors

  • Won (1)
  • Best Edited Feature Film (Nena Danevic and Michael Chandler)

[edit] Casting Society of America

  • Won (1)

[edit] Directors Guild of America

  • Won (1)
  • Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures (Miloš Forman)

[edit] Kansas City Film Critics Circle Award

  • Won (1)
  • Best Actor (F. Murray Abraham)

[edit] United Kingdom

[edit] BAFTA

  • Won (4)
  • Best Cinematography (Miroslav Ondříček)
  • Best Editing (Nena Danevic and Michael Chandler)
  • Best Make Up Artist (Dick Smith and Paul LeBlanc)
  • Best Sound (Mark Berger, Thomas Scott and Christopher Newman)
  • Nominated
  • Best Actor (F. Murray Abraham)
  • Best Costume Design (Theodor Pištěk)
  • Best Film (Miloš Forman and Saul Zaentz)
  • Best Production Design (Patrizia von Brandstein)
  • Best Screenplay - Adapted (Peter Shaffer)

[edit] Italy

[edit] David di Donatello

  • Won (3)

[edit] Nastro d'Argento

  • Won (2)
  • Best Actor - Foreign Film (Tom Hulce)
  • Best Director - Foreign Film (Miloš Forman)

[edit] France

[edit] César Award

  • Won (1)

[edit] Japan

[edit] Japan Academy Prize

  • Won (1)

[edit] Norway


[edit] Notes

  1. ^ The Making of Amadeus. DVD. Warner Bros Pictures, 2001. 20 min.
  2. ^ The Making of Amadeus. DVD. Warner Bros Pictures, 2001. 20 min.
  3. ^ The English Patient weekend box office results, [1]
  4. ^ Amadeus weekend box office results, [2]
  5. ^ "NY Times: Amadeus". NY Times. Retrieved on 2009-1-1. 

[edit] External links

Preceded by
Terms of Endearment
Academy Award for Best Picture
Succeeded by
Out of Africa
Preceded by
Terms of Endearment
Golden Globe for Best Picture - Drama
Succeeded by
Out of Africa

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