Amadeus ★★★★★

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, arguably the single greatest mind in music history, never really had a rise to greatness so much as an immersion in it from the start. A born prodigy, at age 4 he already started composing music and delighted dozens with his immense talent. Achieving notoriety among the elite in the musical industry proved to be an uphill battle for him, yet history has been far more gracious to him than to the other supposed masters of the art. Mozart kept an uncanny ability at achieving perfection while the more publicly renowned, whether out of political or personal motivation, seemed to harbor an intense yet silent hatred for him.

At least, that's what Peter Shaffer's play Amadeus has us believe. While there's no doubt that Antonio Salieri and Mozart had occasional, if not frequent, contact and some sort of relationship; the one-sided rivalry depicted takes great dramatic liberties, much to the advantage of the story. The entire tale is seen from Salieri's eyes- a man so sure of his talent gifted from God and yet so distraught at the sight of another gifted individual that so indirectly threatens his own ability. Mozart achieved perfection without even trying, it seemed. What unfolds is an intricate web of sexual revenge, agonizing inadequacy, and a jealous rage so smothered in secrecy and false kindness that the title character is all but unaware of his own arch nemesis.

The screenplay is something that I can only describe as operatic perfection. The downward spiral into insanity that the two unaware rival characters take is nothing short of poetic. Music and madness are always hand in hand, crafting a convoluted story of exasperating hubris that is devoid of any and all criticism. The film's cinematography and editing achieve a perfection that mimic the symphonic genius that encompassed each of Mozart's masterworks. The soundtrack, comprised almost entirely of Mozart pieces (save for a few scenes of other composers), delivers the emphatic vigor that is needed to heighten the perfect dramatic tension that saturates each scene.

Roger Ebert described Tom Hulce's Mozart as a "proto-hippie," a type of buffoon whose manner is unbecoming of the genius he can be. Perhaps Mozart wasn't the lewd womanizer that Shaffer describes him as, but perhaps this is really how Salieri viewed Mozart, fueled by his jealousy. It would make sense, because the entire film is told from Salieri's perspective, that the Mozart we see here was a degrading projection of a quieter genius. Indeed, Mozart was driven towards madness throughout his life (particularly near the end), but the juvenile facade that he displayed in public or private would be understandable from the viewpoint of a man who felt betrayed by being deprived of another's greatness. This is my third time viewing Amadeus, yet only now this theory become clearer to me than ever before. If that truly is the case, then I can say that Shaffer constructed one of the greatest works of perspective in history.

Amadeus is Milos Forman's masterpiece- a gargantuan epic that elegiacally depicts the life of one of the greatest musicians who ever lived. Every performance here is not without its purpose or power- each dramatic moment bolstered by unimaginable force. Boiling in the background is a pitch perfect tale of underlying resentment and vengeance; and a masterful study of two men, vastly outmatched in their talent, locked forever in an invisible one-sided contention that is driven to death and insanity.

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