Highlighting Amadeus (1984)


The first thing that I realized after I finished watching Amadeus is how misleading the title is. The film doesn't focus solely on Mozart's life, and it's certainly not a biography about the great late composer, but rather about the lifelong envy and somewhat obsession of his rival Antonio Salieri on Mozart's works, and the impacting result of that. Lots of surprises here; I never could have thought of Mozart to be such a crude man. And that obnoxious laugh! That is something I find to be both annoying and memorable the entire time.

But the notorious depiction of Mozart, the interesting characterization of Salieri, the laugh, and the plot development of the film are only some of many things that make Amadeus successful, both for me and for the public. Receiving both nominations and wins for many awards, including a win for Oscar's Best Picture, this is one striking film indeed.



1. The costumes (and the setting)
This is one thing that I really like about historical films: when they manage to create the most lavish visuals that illustrate the characters and the plot perfectly -- no matter it's historical accuracy -- it's spot on. Arguably, this film could compete with Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette in terms of visual exaggeration. Luxurious palaces, extravagant clothes and larger than life wigs that really play an important part to support the characters' personalities. I love Mozart's slightly rebellious choice of wigs. His seems more... well, different than the others, which are more orderly and stiff. Mozart's wigs define him well in the film: he often styles them to an eccentric messy haystack, and at one point he even wears a pink wig! Amusing.


2. Mozart and Salieri
The actors portraying the two main characters are Tom Hulce and F. Murray Abraham. To be honest this is the first time ever I've heard of both actors, and I'm very much awed by their performances for the film. Mozart (Hulce) is portrayed as someone vulgar, crude and surprisingly goofy. In here, one wouldn't even come to the conclusion that he's blessed with immense musical talent if they don't witness him composing and carrying his music out to his audience. We first see an adult Mozart laughing literally like a hyena whilst running gleefully, chasing a girl to a room which happens to have Salieri in it. But Salieri hides from the young couple and observes them from afar, thinking to himself how obnoxious and perverted this young man is towards the girl. Just when he realizes that it is actually Mozart whom he despises for his obscenity... we can see how struck he is.


Antonio Salieri knows that his passion is music and music only. He has always adored Mozart, who was a child prodigy the first time he heard about him. When Salieri had the chance to finally meet Mozart, well, his expectations were high and he thought of meeting someone of high class, full of dignity and proper manner. He was disappointed, and this, I think, triggers his envy and bitter resentment for the man's musical talent, which he longs to possess. Notable enough, he's a religious man, believing that he will be given what he wants (the glory of a composer) if he asks persistently enough to God. But when his perception of a perfect composer is ruined by Mozart's ill-manners, Salieri blames God for that ("Why would God choose an obscene child to be His instrument?") and slowly turns away from Him.


Mozart is... such an unique persona. I certainly don't know how the real Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was like, but this film changes my entire perception of him. I once thought of the real Mozart as a shy gentleman, complete with manners and decent --maybe even gallant-- style. The film's Mozart is the complete opposite of what I once expected him to be like: a giggling goof with often childlike behaviour. It is certainly easier to describe him than to describe Salieri because of their vast difference. There are a lot of aspects considerable when talking about Salieri: his background, passions, ambition, relationship with Mozart, and the reasons why he loathes and yet praises the composer so much. Mozart himself, on the other hand, is the main focus of the main character's conflict. Most people already know who Mozart, so there's not much introduction needed. What's important is his portrayal for the film, and how likely will it be successful to depict him as a vulgar man. It did succeed, honestly.

What interests me the most is Salieri's assumption of God's plan on his life. He thought God is mocking him through the existence of Mozart, and he is always trying to get back at Him for the humiliation he feels, the defeat he thought he received; one thing that really amuse me the entire time. But this is such an amazing motive that starts the entire conflict. The characterization of Salieri and Mozart, and many little aspects about them all leads to an awesome conclusion, which is actually obvious... but still, awesome.


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