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Sunday, February 19, 2006

Oscar Review: Amadeus (1984)

It is a tale of the tormented mind of Antonio Salieri (F. Murray Abraham), court composer to Emperor Joseph II of Austria (Jeffrey Jones), as his life parallels that of musical genius Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Tom Hulce).

We find Salieri as an old man locked in his room screaming the name of Mozart into the night as he attempts suicide. Thrown into a mental institution and visited by a young priest to hear his confession, Salieri recounts his days as a younger man serving in the court.

As a boy, Salieri prayed that he would live a pure life if only God would allow him the talent for composition. He would create music to praise God if only God would allow him to be the instrument. However, upon meeting the boisterous child prodigy, Salieri becomes enraged that God would place such a gift in such a vessel and he vows to destroy the young master.

While putting on a front and pretending to be Mozart's greatest defender with the emperor, Salieri plots the mind games to be used against his rival. Using Mozart's fear of his father against him, Salieri drives the man insane and, ultimately, to his death.
Amadeus won 8 of its 11 nominations for Best Picture, Best Director (Milos Forman), Best Actor (Abraham), Adapted Screenplay (Peter Shaffer), Art Direction, Costume Design, Makeup, and Sound and it ranks at #53 on AFI's top 100.

With the theaters almost unchanged since the 1700s, the opera sets and costumes designed from sketches of the originals, and moments taken from the actual life of the great composer, Amadeus is an excellent attempt to transport the audience into what it may have actually been like in the days of Mozart.

It is a dark film, filled with wonderful performances, particularly those of Hulce and Abraham as they work with and against each other to propel the story along with its many moments of joy and brilliance and its many more moments of mental anguish and despair. The delicate dance between admiration and hatred is just fabulous.

A fine film indeed.