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Amadeus (1984)

The first time I saw the film Amadeus it was in a movie theater, in 1984, when I was 15 years old. I sat there enthralled and overwhelmed with emotion as I watched it, taken in near immediately by the look and feel of the film, the emotional landscape of manic highs and suicidal lows, and the music. A girl brought up with a daily staple of rock and roll, with a little bit of country and folk thrown in, classical music was not something I had encountered very often, sans the inclusion in film, on occasion. My preconceived notions of classical music were stodgy and conservative, and from the vantage point of 15, old. I did not expect the exuberant, raucous and well, raunchy nature of Wolfgang, and despite the obvious instability of his mental state (some of which was definitely lost on me, at that age), I developed a pretty quick crush on him, and on the actor Tom Hulce, who played him so exceptionally. I fell madly in love with the film, and saw it a few times more whilst it was in theaters, and later watched it multiple times on the VHS copy I once owned. Also, there was something very rock and roll about this portrayal of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, something very adolescent and rebellious, as well, which of course appealed to my teenage self.

Later, in the early nineties, there were more viewings of the film when I was part of a college performance of the play version of Amadeus, and acting within it made me love the story, and the film, even more.

Years have passed since my last viewing, so when I sat and watched it with my two daughters, Julia (weeks from turning 21) and Veronica (age 10), it was quite interesting to take in the film again adjacent to their viewpoints, reactions and perspectives. It was also interesting to see and feel the film again, at age 43, and experience it with my life experiences and perspectives where they are today. Just like a re-read of a favorite book, every time it is taken in differently. A few things struck me near immediately, one was that F. Murray Abraham’s portrayal of the aging, and asylum residing, Antonio Salieri, reminded me quite a lot of Gary Oldman’s portrayal of the seemingly aged Dracula that Jonathan Harker first meets (clad in Geisha type gown). There is something so similar in their mannerisms and ways of speaking, and emoting, that it made me want to watch the latter to compare (will report back when I do). I also noticed, around the same time that my older daughter commented, that there were no Italian or German accents used by any of the actors. I do not recall noticing that before, or at least finding it noteworthy at those earlier viewings, which led me to wonder if this was a style choice of the time, a director’s decision, or was it how the movie and stage play, that the movie was based on, was meant to be portrayed. For me, the lack of appropriate accents never bothered me, though with the mention of it, I did continue to think about it as the movie played.

If the film were remade today, would it feature specific accents representative of Vienna? Would the actors speak English? Or, would it remain the way it is in this film?

Also, in reading the trivia on this film, I have to wonder what it would have been like if Tim Curry played the role of Amadeus, and also, what the stage play would have been like to see with Curry as Amadeus, and Sir Ian McKellen, as Salieri.

Amadeus trailer

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