Salieri then begins to weave his tale of his driving ambition to create music, the young genius in whoís shadow he had to stand, and his mighty struggle to crush and defeat God. Salieri tells the story of how he killed Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
If youíve never heard of Antonio Salieri, donít feel alone. Although highly regarded in his day, his work has almost completely slipped from todayís repertory of classical music and opera. He never wrote any pieces of music that have stood the test of time. However, he is mildly famous for being the one who supposedly killed his contemporary, the great composer Mozart. Shortly after Mozartís death, there were rumors that Salieri had poisoned Mozart. It is said that later in life, after he had suffered from health problems for years and was probably senile, he actually confessed to doing the job. But most historians believe it was unlikely. Still, the idea lives on as an interesting one.
Amadeus is based on a popular play of the same name. The playwright, Peter Schaffer, has a knack for taking real-life and historical stories, and injecting them with a mighty dose of drama, making them more than factual accounts and turning them into powerful struggles of humanity (his other works, Equus and The Royal Hunt for the Sun have similar themes). For some reason, Schaffer found Salieriís tale fascinating and delved into it deeper. There was plenty of material to chose from, including several melodramatic plays written on the subject and even a short opera featuring a snarling and evil Salieri poisoning a young and innocent Mozart.
But in the hands of Shaffer, Milos Forman (the films director) and Murray F. Abraham (Salieri), this is not the case at all. In fact, in the film, Salieri is not evil or conniving, but a perfectly gentle, civilized man. He loves music more than anything in life, it is his passion. As a young boy, he makes a pact with God that if God will let him become a musician and bless him with talent, Salieri will devote his life to his glory. And then enters Mozart, the child prodigy. Mozart, expertly played by Tom Hulce, is foul mouthed, foolish and childish. And yet he creates the most beautiful music ever heard. Salieri begins to suspect that God is openly mocking him through Mozart (thereís a great scene where Mozart turns A rather dull piece of music by Salieri into a rollicking march-which later becomes one of his most famous melodies). Abraham plays Salieri with soft-spoken subtleties, and even a touch of humor. Who canít relate to this man, who wants so badly to find glory, and is doomed to mediocrity? The drama intensifies as we slowly begin to see Salieri turn his back on God and do everything in his power to block him from earth, including killing Mozart. We watch as he slowly plays with Mozartís mind, trying to drive him to insanity.
If you are thinking that youíll need a ten-inch thick book on history to follow this, your wrong. Amadeus is not hard to follow at all, itís more concerned with telling a human story than an biographical one. And itís great fun. Anyone can be entertained by this movie.
In the end, Amadeus is not a biography on Mozartís life, nor is it a record of historical events. Itís completely fictional, and a darn good movie.
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