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  • Writer's pictureRonny Duncan Studios

Amadeus (1984)


What is this movie is about?/Elevator Pitch: Jealousy, envy, and eventually tragedy between two rivals at the top of their field.


Plot Summary: In the winter of 1823, Antonio Salieri (F. Murray Abraham) is in a psychiatric hospital following a suicide attempt. A priest is summoned to hear Salieri’s confession concerning his statement that he killed the composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Tom Hulce). In his confession, Salieri reveals his contempt for Mozart’s obscenity, immaturity, and drunkenness. He cannot understand how God had chosen Mozart has his instrument to bring heavenly music to the world. As Mozart’s drunkenness and poor behavior destroy his health, marriage, and reputation, leaving him sick and broke; Salieri uses the situation to seek revenge on God and Mozart and prove he is more than mediocre.


Cast:

  • Milos Forman, Director

  • Peter Shaffer, Writer

  • F. Murray Abraham as Antonio Salieri

  • Tom Hulce as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

  • Elizabeth Berridge as Constanze Mozart

  • Roy Dotrice as Leopold Mozart

  • Simon Callow as Emanuel Schikaneder

  • Christine Ebersole as Caterina Cavalieri

  • Jeffrey Jones as Emperor Joseph II

  • Charles Kay as Count Orsini-Rosenberg

  • Kenneth McMillan as Michael Schlumberg (Director's Cut)

  • Kenny Baker as Parody Commendatore

  • Lisabeth Bartlett as Papagena

*Recognition:

  • Amadeus is based on the stage play of the same name from Peter Shaffer from 1979.

  • It was wide released on September 19, 1984. Upon release, it received widespread acclaim and was a box office hit, grossing over $90 million.

  • Amadeus currently holds an 89% on RT and an 88% on Metacritic.

  • Considered by many to be one of the greatest films of all time, Amadeus was nominated for 53 awards and received 40, four BAFTA Awards, four Golden Globe Awards, and a Directors Guild of America award).

  • It was nominated for 11 Oscars including Best Actor (Hulce), Cinematography, and Film Editing, and won 8 Oscars including Best Picture, Director (Forman), Actor (Abraham), Screenplay (Shaffer), Art Direction, Costume Design, Makeup and Sound.

  • In 1998, the American Film Institute ranked it 53rd on its 100 Years... 100 Movies list.

  • As of 2022, it is the most recent film to have more than one nomination in the Academy Award for Best Actor category.

  • In 2019, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

Did You Know:

  • Amadeus is one of only 4 productions to win both a Tony Award for Best Play (1981) and the Best Picture Oscar (1984). The other 3 are My Fair Lady (1964), The Sound of Music (1965) (both of which won Best Musical Tonys) and A Man for All Seasons (1966).

  • Milos Forman insisted that his lead actors retain their American accents so that they could concentrate on their characters and performance instead.

  • Mark Hamill, who replaced Tim Curry as Mozart towards the end of the run of the stage play on Broadway, recalled in an interview that he read with many actresses auditioning for Mozart's wife Constanze and after the reads, Forman decided to not cast him because of his association with the character of Luke Skywalker, believing that the audience would not believe him as the composer.

  • Tom Hulce reportedly used John McEnroe's mood swings as a source of inspiration for his portrayal of Mozart's unpredictable genius.

  • The film ironically helped spark a revival of Salieri's music, which had previously languished in obscurity.

  • When shooting the scene in which Salieri is writing down the death mass under Mozart's dictation, Tom Hulce was deliberately skipping lines to confuse F. Murray Abraham, in order to achieve the impression that Salieri wasn't able to fully understand the music being dictated.

  • Several professors of music stated, after studying all of the musical keys struck on pianos throughout the film, that not one key is struck incorrectly when compared to what is heard at the exact same moment. In other words, what you see is exactly what you hear.

  • The performance of "Don Giovanni" in the movie was filmed on the same stage where the opera first appeared.

  • That really is Tom Hulce playing the piano on his back in one scene.

  • Tom Hulce only knew how to play the guitar before shooting. Milos Forman said they could cheat it, but it would be good if he learned how to play the piano. Hulce spent six hours a day for six months learning how to play the piano, and every Mozart symphony that was in the film.

  • The movie was shot without the use of light bulbs or other modern lighting devices.

  • Tom Hulce said he based Mozart's distinctive, obnoxious laugh on a very famous director he worked with, who laughed in an identical manner. As of 2016, he has still refused to name the director.

Best Performance: F. Murray Abraham (Salieri)

Best Secondary Performance: Peter Shaffer (writer)/Tom Hulce (Mozart)

Most Charismatic Award: Mozart's Music/Elizabeth Berridge (Constance)

Best Scene:

  • Mozart Plays Salieri's New Tune

  • He Doesn't Make Copies

  • The Marriage of Figaro

  • Wolfgang's Father Comes to Vienna

  • The Masquerade Party

  • Salieri as Don Giovanni

  • Mozart and Salieri Write Together

  • Mozart Buried in a Mass Grave

Favorite Scene: Mozart and Salieri Write Together

Most Indelible Moment: Mozart and Salieri Write Together


In Memorium:

Best Lines/Funniest Lines:

Antonio Salieri: I will speak for you, Father. I speak for all mediocrities in the world. I am their champion. I am their patron saint. [wheelchaired through the insane asylum] Mediocrities everywhere... I absolve you... I absolve you... I absolve you... I absolve you... I absolve you all.


Antonio Salieri: [to Father Vogel] That was not Mozart laughing, Father... that was God. That was God laughing at me through that obscene giggle...


Antonio Salieri: [reflecting upon a Mozart score] On the page it looked nothing. The beginning simple, almost comic. Just a pulse. Bassoons and basset horns, like a rusty squeezebox. And then suddenly, high above it, an oboe. A single note, hanging there, unwavering. Until a clarinet took over and sweetened it into a phrase of such delight! This was no composition by a performing monkey! This was a music I'd never heard. Filled with such longing, such unfulfillable longing, it had me trembling. It seemed to me that I was hearing the voice of God.


Emperor Joseph II: My dear young man, don't take it too hard. Your work is ingenious. It's quality work. And there are simply too many notes, that's all. Just cut a few and it will be perfect.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Which few did you have in mind, Majesty?


Antonio Salieri: All I wanted was to sing to God. He gave me that longing... and then made me mute. Why? Tell me that. If He didn't want me to praise him with music, why implant the desire? Like a lust in my body! And then deny me the talent?


Count Orsini-Rosenberg: Italian is the proper language for opera. All educated people agree on that.


The Stanley Rubric:

Legacy: 5

Impact/Significance: 8

Novelty: 9

Classic-ness: 7.25

Rewatchability: 6

Audience Score: 9.2 (89% Google, 95% RT)

Total: 44.45


Remaining Questions:

  • What was the pyrotechnics situations in the 18th Century?

  • How does anyone believe F. Murray Abraham is in his 20s in the early part of the movie?

  • Why is there no theatrical version of this film available?

  • Is it still disturbing to see Jeffrey Jones in movies?

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