Some Oscar winners endure for time immemorial, drifting through the ether of popular culture like that plastic bag from American Beauty on a particularly powerful zephyr. Others disappear without a trace. I’m still yet to meet a human being that has seen The Last Emperor, the 1987 Best Picture winner, and I would also include Driving Miss Daisy and Terms of Endearment on a list of Best Picture winners that haven’t really made much of a cultural splash. Amadeus isn’t quite at that level, but it’s in the same ballpark. Director Milos Forman is much more famous for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest than this film and the two leads – Tom Hulce and F. Murray Abraham – never really troubled the A list after filming wrapped. And yet, Amadeus took home eight Oscars and currently sits at #84 on IMDB’s coveted top 250…
Antonio Salieri (Abraham) is a great talent. A gifted piano player and a favourite of the Austrian emperor, Salieri has the world at his fingertips. Unfortunately for him, the good Lord saw fit to also bestow another talented piano player on the Austrian empire – one Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Hulce).
I think one of the reasons that so few people of my generation have seen Amadeus is that it looks like it’s going to be very serious and, ultimately, a bit dull. Classical music is not an area renowned for its merrymaking and this combined with a nearly 3 hour running time makes for an intimidating cinematic prospect. Fear not fellow dunderheads, Amadeus is actually much more lighthearted than you think it is. This is largely down to Hulce’s braying, excitable portrayal of Mozart, and Abraham’s wide eyed, manic version of Salieri. Together, the two seasoned actors make wonderful music, and it is in those scenes that Amadeus really sings.
Having said that, as much as I enjoyed Amadeus (and I really did), 2 hours 40 minutes is far too long. It just is. Nobody needs that. And it is also a film that I would never dream of watching again. Very much a one and done in that respect.
Amadeus is a film that examines the relationship between hard work and natural talent and does so in a way that is frequently unique and entertaining. You need to be in the mood for it, but you’ll enjoy it if you are.