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October 12, 1984 - Image 13

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1984-10-12
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By Joshua Bilmes
Directed by Milos Forman
Starring Tom Hulce and F. Murray
A MADEUS should have a guilty con-
cience. It has all of the quality film-
making which has been sadly lacking in
movies this year. From first scene to
last, the film has more things that are
good than any one film should have.
The first scene is, in fact, a fairly
good example of what makes Amadeus
such a splendid movie.
Two servants knock on the door to
Antonio Salieri's bedroom. From
within Salieri can be heard screaming.
But the servants pay no attention as
they try to entice their master into
having some food.
When the screaming continues and no
one comes to answer the door, they
break it down and find Salieri bloodied
on the floor, having attempted suicide.'
The above is beautifully
photographed by cinematographer

Miroslav Ondricek. Director Milos
Forman (Ragtime, Hair, One Flew
Over the Cuckoo's Nest) manages to
coax two very good pefformances from
the servants. By subtle eye movements



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and slight changes in facial expression
we can see their reluctance to break in-
to the room and their mystification as
to why Salieri is yelling and not coming
to the door to get the food.
It is certainly top-notch filmmaking.
And it continues from there. Salieri
(F. Murray Abraham) is taken to a
hospital, and the next day, a priest
comes to visit, asking Salieri if he has a
And boy does he.
It lasts into the next morning as
Salieri tells us of Mozart.
Salieri had always wanted to com-
pose music, praying to God to make it
happen. It is safe to say that he is ob-
sessed with composition. God grants
him his wish, and he becomes court
composer to Emperor Joseph II in
Vienna. He is satisfied.
But then he hears Mozart. He had
heard of the prodigy and he im-
mediately recognizes the genius, next
to which his own abilities pale. He
realizes that the only way he can
remain satisfied is to defeat Mozart.
This conflict is a little historical ex-
cess on the part of writer Peter Shaffer,
who adapted his own play of the same
name. It is true that Salieri confessed
to the poisoning of Wolfgang Amadeus
Mozart, but the truth of his claim has
never been established, and this film
goes beyond that.
But the entire movie is full of excess.
The performances are excessively
good, as is the photography, the art
direction, and practically everything
Taking the performances first, Tom
Hulce, a Michigan-reared actor, is
Mozart. He has a laugh that is perfectly
representative of his outlook on life.
The first few times we hear it, we
laugh, too, but as the film advances and
his Salieri-induced decline does, too, we
begin to find it a bit sad.
Hulce makes a good changeover from
an irreverant, immodest man obsessed
with his music to a man who is just ob-

Abraham is perhaps even better as
Salieri, the composer obsessed with his
own mediocrity. Ashe confesses to the
priest in old age and watches Mozart
while younger, every little gesture is
right. We know this man.
The entire cast has the most minute
details correct, except perhaps for
Elizabeth Berridge as Mozart's wife.
Any one of the scenes at Joseph's
court are full of little details that tell us
not just what the people are saying on
the surface but what they feel under-
neath, too. Just watch Jeffrey Jones as
Joseph. You can tell how easily he is
able to see through everything his
subordinates are doing, and how
amusing he finds it.
The film was shot almost entirely in
Prague, which does a very good job of
imitating the Vienna of Mozart's day.
The interiors are opulent, looking as
you would expect an Emporor's court to
The exteriors also have an un-
deniable authenticity. And the Tyl
Theater, where the opera scenes were
staged, was the actual site of Mozart's
premiere of Don Giovanni.
All is well-filmed by Ondricek, who
has filmed the bulk of Forman's
Another veteran of Forman films,
Twyla Tharp, stages the opera sequen-
ces. They are also well done, and it is a
shame the camera does not dwell on
them for longer periods. At times, the
staging appeared to be a bit too moder-
nistic, and that anachronism is
probably one of the film's biggest flaws.
Merely looking at Amadeus is a
pleasure in itself. It is a splendid,
engrossing work. Its 21/2 hours glide by
in a wealth of detail as we see two truly
obsessed men clash without ever once
really fighting,
The characters are multi-layered,
and I would very much like to see the
film again, to try and catch some new
tidbit. If you want to be acquainted
with the Oscar nominees this year, get
out to Briarwood and admire Amadeus,
another Milos Forman winner.



/ I

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Weekend/Friday, October 12, 1984

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