Just a brief note: I apologise for the lateness in this post, as I had to replace a film on this list with something else due to my opinion changing over time.
With that out of the way, here is my 13th favourite film of all time. Amadeus, directed by Milos Forman.
Let’s face it, there was no way that this film could not be on my list. This is a film that has always been on a lot of lists of favourite films, and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be. Even those who bash it for its historical inaccuracy have to admit that the work that went into this film was, without a doubt outstanding. And I’m here to explain why Amadeus is one of my favourite films ever.
The film centres on the real life classical musician, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Tom Hulce), who is known for his talents and music around Germany. Another musician named Salieri (F Murray Abraham) grows fascinated with Mozart, yet also perplexed by how much of a buffoon he is. As time passes, his feelings turn to jealousy, and he secretly plots to discredit and eventually destroy the young musician. At the same time, however Mozart is plagued with problems of his own, including his strained marriage and personal life, as well as struggling to find work and putting up with the Emperor’s court criticizing him. These two conflicting paths of the musicians interweave, culminating in a devastating end for Mozart and Salieri.
So, there it is. But, how exactly is it good?
1: Character Conflict.
No film is ever good enough, unless there is some form of conflict that keeps the audience engaged. Whether it be small or big, there has to be a battle of some sorts.
The main conflict is with the central characters, Mozart and Salieri. The latter sees Mozart as a baboon who doesn’t deserve the respect of other people, when it should be him. Mozart harbours no grudges against Salieri, due to his naivety of Salieri’s jealousy. His main conflict is with everyone around him; the emperor’s court of musicians and his father. Mozart is looked down by others because of his giggling personality and whilst we can sympathise with his plight to be a success, we do understand why others look down at him and why Salieri is jealous.
Salieri’s determination is one of the driving forces of the movie. He obsessed over destroying Mozart’s career and watching the latter spiral out of control. Whilst this is a major plot device in the movie, the other half that focuses on Mozart’s slow descent into ruin is the plot point that takes up most of the narrative. We see both characters struggles and how it ultimately destroys them. This conflict is just amazing and we can relate to both Mozart and Salieri and how their stories intertwine.
2: Obsession and Self-Destruction.
Whilst the film may have a lot of inaccuracies and just a story of a famous musician, the main theme that is present throughout the film is that of obsession and how our desires can have bad consequences. Now, bear in mind that this is my opinion, so it might differ from others.
Salieri’s obsession over getting the better of Mozart ultimately drives to plotting his death: he disguises himself as a hooded figure requesting a mass requiem to be written. Salieri is fully aware of Mozart’s ill health and all his financial troubles and manipulates his rival into a phase of madness, pushing everyone away. Salieri’s obsession causes him to reject God from his life and secretly plot behind everyone’s back. Unfortunately for him, whilst his obsession does prevail in the end, it drives him insane to the point where he is locked away in an asylum, with only his guilt to keep him company.
Mozart has an obsession of his own: to write music and make money. His success however, is not fully seen by the emperor’s court who criticise his music for not being in touch with what they want. As a result, his work is given bad reviews and he struggles to earn money, all of which drives him to the brink of insanity and to his wife leaving him and his father dying feeling ashamed of what his son has become. By the time Salieri has played his hand in manipulating Mozart into writing the requiem, Mozart is on the verge of death and, indeed, he does die, unaware of Salieri’s deeds and how his work will be admired in the future. But one thing is certain; much like Salieri’s obsession destroyed him, so did Mozart’s.
This film does a fantastic job at showing how a strong desire to achieve our dreams has its disadvantages. Sometimes, an obsession can be extremely harmful to our own health, damaging us psychologically. But, that’s my take on this film, so don’t take it for granted.
3: Music and Cinematography.
Now, I’m not a huge fan of classical music. That being said, I am rather fond of the music in this film. It presents the world of music in such a dramatic and spellbinding way.
From the quiet opening of Salieri preparing to talk about to Mozart, to the former’s stunned reaction to reading Mozart’s music and describing it, and all the way to Mozart’s burial set to the infamous requiem mass. All of these scenes in the film work so well, conveying the story and keeping us engaged despite the long running time.
I was blown away by the scenes at the opera as Mozart orchestrates his work, even though, again, I’m not a huge opera fan. For anyone trying to get into Mozart’s work, this is the place to go to. Just seeing how much effort the real life man put into his music and how appreciated it is today is staggering. We’re sucked into this world, into the madness of both Mozart and Salieri and what the world of music means to both them and to us. That’s what Amadeus is, at the end of the day.
And that’s all I have to say on Amadeus. Great performances, music and an outstanding conflict, this is a film that I’m happy to watch now and then, hence why it is on this list.
Join me next time for film number 12.