Theatrical release poster by Peter Sís
|Directed by||Miloš Forman|
|Produced by||Saul Zaentz|
|Screenplay by||Peter Shaffer|
by Peter Shaffer
|Distributed by||Orion Pictures|
|Box office||$52 million (North America)|
Amadeus is a 1984 American period drama film directed by Miloš Forman, written by Peter Shaffer, and adapted from Shaffer's stage play Amadeus (1979). The story, set in Vienna, Austria, during the latter half of the 18th century, is a fictionalized biography of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Mozart's music is heard extensively in the soundtrack of the movie. Its central thesis is that Antonio Salieri, an Italian contemporary of Mozart is so driven by jealousy of the latter and his success as a composer that he plans to kill him and to pass off a Requiem, which he secretly commissioned from Mozart as his own, to be premiered at Mozart's funeral. Historically, the Requiem which was never finished was commissioned by Count von Walsegg and Salieri, far from being jealous of Mozart, was on good terms with him and even tutored his son after Mozart's death.
The film was nominated for 53 awards and received 40, which included eight Academy Awards (including Best Picture), four BAFTA Awards, four Golden Globes, and a Directors Guild of America (DGA) award. As of 2016, it is the most recent film to have more than one nomination in the Academy Award for Best Actor category. In 1998, the American Film Institute ranked Amadeus 53rd on its 100 Years... 100 Movies list.
The story begins in 1823 as the elderly Antonio Salieri (F. Murray Abraham) attempts suicide by slitting his throat while loudly begging forgiveness for having killed Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Tom Hulce) in 1791. Placed in a lunatic asylum for the act, Salieri is visited by Father Vogler (Richard Frank), a young priest who seeks to hear his confession. Salieri is initially sullen and uninterested, but eventually warms to the priest and launches into a long "confession" about his relationship with Mozart.
Salieri goes on telling his tale through the night, and into the next day. He reminisces about his youth, particularly about his devotion to God, and his love for music, despite his father's plans for him to go into commerce. He pledged to God to remain celibate as a sacrifice if he could somehow devote his life to music, and perceived his father's subsequent death as divine intervention to make this possible.
Years later, Salieri is part of the 18th-century cultural elite in Vienna, the "city of musicians". He is respected, financially well-off, and has been appointed court composer for Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II (Jeffrey Jones). He is content, and believes his successes are God’s rewards for his piety.
The famous child prodigy Mozart arrives in Vienna, and Salieri goes to a performance hoping to meet him, convinced that Mozart's genius must be a gift from God. Salieri secretly observes Mozart, and is shocked to discover that rather than the paragon of virtue that he has imagined, Mozart is in fact boorish, irreverent, and lewd. Later, when Mozart meets the Emperor, Salieri presents Mozart with a "March of Welcome," which he had toiled to create. After hearing the march only once, Mozart plays it from memory, tactlessly critiques it, and effortlessly improvises a variation, transforming Salieri's "trifle" into what later would become the Non più andrai march from his opera The Marriage of Figaro.
Salieri reels at the notion of God speaking through the childish, petulant Mozart: nevertheless, he regards his music as miraculous. Gradually, Salieri’s faith is shaken. He believes that God, through Mozart's genius, is cruelly laughing at Salieri's own musical mediocrity. Salieri's struggles with God are intercut with scenes showing Mozart's own trials and tribulations with life in Vienna: pride at the initial reception of his music, anger and disbelief over his subsequent snubbing by the Italians of the Emperor's court, happiness with his wife Constanze (Elizabeth Berridge) and his son Karl, and grief at the death of his father Leopold (Roy Dotrice). Mozart becomes more desperate as the family's expenses increase and his commissions decrease. When Salieri learns of Mozart's financial straits, he sees his chance to avenge himself, using "God's Beloved" (the literal meaning of "Amadeus") as the instrument.
Salieri hatches a complex plot to gain ultimate victory over Mozart and God. He disguises himself in a mask and costume similar to one he saw Leopold wear at a party, and commissions Mozart to write a requiem mass, giving him a down payment and the promise of an enormous sum upon completion. Mozart begins to write the piece, the Requiem in D minor, unaware of the true identity of his mysterious patron and oblivious of his murderous intentions. Glossing over any details of how he might commit the murder, Salieri dwells on the anticipation of the admiration of his peers and the court, when they applaud the magnificent Requiem, and he claims to be the music's composer. Only Salieri and God would know the truth—that Mozart wrote his own requiem mass, and that God could only watch while Salieri finally receives the fame and renown that he deserves.
Mozart's financial situation worsens due to his spendthrift lifestyle. This, combined with his heavy drinking, continued grief over the death of his father, and the composing demands of the Requiem and The Magic Flute drive him to the point of exhaustion as he alternates work between the two pieces. After a violent argument, Constanze leaves him and takes their son with her. His health worsens, and he collapses during a performance of The Magic Flute. Salieri takes the stricken Mozart home and convinces him to work on the Requiem. Mozart dictates while Salieri transcribes throughout the night. When Constanze returns in the morning, she tells Salieri to leave. Constanze locks the manuscript away despite Salieri's objections, but as she goes to wake her husband, she finds that Mozart is dead. The Requiem is left unfinished, and Salieri is left powerless as Mozart's body is hauled out of Vienna for burial in a pauper's mass grave.
The film ends as Salieri finishes recounting his story to the visibly shaken young priest. Salieri concludes that God killed Mozart rather than allow Salieri to share in even an ounce of his glory, and that he is consigned to be the "patron saint of mediocrity". Salieri absolves the priest of his own mediocrity and blesses his fellow patients as he is taken away in his wheelchair. The last sound heard before the credits roll is Mozart's high-pitched laughter.
- F. Murray Abraham as Antonio Salieri
- Tom Hulce as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
- Elizabeth Berridge as Constanze Mozart
- Roy Dotrice as Leopold Mozart
- Jeffrey Jones as Emperor Joseph II
- Charles Kay as Count Orsini-Rosenberg
- Simon Callow as Emanuel Schikaneder
- Jonathan Moore as Baron van Swieten
- Roderick Cook as Count Von Strack
- Patrick Hines as Kapellmeister Giuseppe Bonno
- Richard Frank as Father Vogler
- Christine Ebersole as Caterina Cavalieri
- Cynthia Nixon as Lorl, Mozart's maid
- Nicholas Kepros as Count Hieronymus von Colloredo, Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg
In his autobiography Beginning, Kenneth Branagh says that he was one of the finalists for the role of Mozart, but was dropped from consideration when Forman decided to make the film with an American cast. Hulce reportedly used John McEnroe's mood swings as a source of inspiration for his portrayal of Mozart's unpredictable genius. Hulce and Branagh later worked together in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (film), directed by Branagh.
Meg Tilly was cast as Mozart's wife Constanze, but she tore a ligament in her leg the day before shooting started. She was replaced by Elizabeth Berridge. Simon Callow, who played Mozart in the original London stage production of Amadeus, was cast as Emanuel Schikaneder, the librettist of The Magic Flute.
The film was shot on location in Prague, Kroměříž, and Vienna. Notably, Forman was able to shoot scenes in the Count Nostitz Theatre in Prague, where Don Giovanni and La clemenza di Tito debuted two centuries before. Several other scenes were shot at the Barrandov Studios.
Forman collaborated with American choreographer Twyla Tharp.
In 1985, the film was nominated for eleven Academy Awards, including the double nomination for Best Actor with Hulce and Abraham each being nominated for their portrayals of Mozart and Salieri, respectively. The film won eight Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Actor (Abraham), Best Director (Forman), Costume Design (Theodor Pištěk), Adapted Screenplay (Shaffer), Art Direction (Karel Černý, Patrizia von Brandenstein), Best Makeup, and Best Sound. The film was nominated for but did not win Oscars for Best Cinematography and Best Editing. Amadeus, The English Patient, The Hurt Locker, The Artist, and Birdman are the only Best Picture winners to never enter the weekend box office top 5 after rankings began being recorded in 1982. Amadeus peaked at #6 during its 8th weekend in theaters. Saul Zaentz produced both Amadeus and The English Patient.
The film was nominated for six Golden Globes (Hulce and Abraham were nominated together) and won four, including awards to Forman, Abraham, Shaffer, and Golden Globe Award for Best Picture – Drama. Jeffrey Jones was nominated for Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture Drama. Forman also received the Directors Guild of America Award for his work.
At the end of the Oscar ceremony, Laurence Olivier came on stage to present the Oscar for Best Picture. As Olivier thanked the Academy for inviting him, he was already opening the envelope. Instead of announcing the nominees, he simply read, "The winner for this is ‘Amadeus’." An AMPAS official quickly went onstage to confirm the winner and signaled that all was well, before Olivier then presented the award to producer Saul Zaentz. Olivier (in his 78th year) had been ill for many years, and it was because of mild dementia that he forgot to read the nominees. Zaentz then thanked Olivier, saying it was an honour to receive the award from him, before mentioning the other nominees in his acceptance speech: The Killing Fields, A Passage to India, Places in the Heart and A Soldier's Story. Maurice Jarre won the Oscar for Best Original Music Score for his scoring of A Passage to India. In his acceptance speech for the award, Jarre remarked "I was lucky Mozart was not eligible this year".
Amadeus premiered in 1984 as a PG-rated movie with a running time of 161 minutes. In 2002, director Miloš Forman introduced an R-rated version with nearly 20 minutes of restored footage. This version was released by the studios as a Director's Cut. In the 1995 supplemental material for Pioneer's deluxe LaserDisc, Miloš Forman had justified why those scenes were cut in the first place. However, in a subsequent 2002 interview with The A.V. Club, the director explains why the scenes were eventually restored:
When you finish a film, before the first paying audience sees it, you don't have any idea. You don't know if you made a success or a flop, when it comes to the box office. And in the '80s, with MTV on the scene, we are having a three-hour film about classical music, with long names and wigs and costumes. Don't forget that no major studio wanted to finance the film, for these reasons. So we said, "Well, we don't want to be pushing the audience's patience too far". Whatever was not directly connected to the plot, I just cut out. But it was a mutual decision [to limit the running time]. I wanted the best life for the film myself... Well, once we are re-releasing it on DVD, it doesn't matter if it is two hours and 40 minutes long, or three hours long. So why don't we do the version as it was written in the script?
- The Orchestra: Academy of St Martin in the Fields, conducted by Sir Neville Marriner
- The Choruses
- Academy Chorus of St Martin In The Fields, conducted by Laszlo Heltay
- Ambrosian Opera Chorus, conducted by John McCarthy
- The Choristers of Westminster Abbey, conducted by Simon Preston
- Instrumental soloists
- Parody backgrounds: San Francisco Symphony Chorus
- "Caro mio ben" by Giuseppe Giordani: Michele Esposito, soprano
Original soundtrack album
(all composed by Mozart except as noted)
- Disc one
- Symphony No. 25 in G minor, K. 183, first movement
- Stabat Mater: Quando Corpus Morietur and Amen (Pergolesi – performed by the Choristers of Westminster Abbey, directed by Simon Preston)
- Early 18th Century Gypsy Music: Bubak and Hungaricus
- Serenade for Winds, K. 361, third movement
- The Abduction from the Seraglio, K. 384, Turkish Finale
- Symphony No. 29 in A, K. 201, first movement
- Piano Concerto No. 10 for Two Pianos in E-flat, K. 365, third movement
- Mass in C minor, K. 427, "Kyrie"
- Symphonie Concertante, K. 364, first movement
- Disc two
- Piano Concerto in E-flat, K. 482, third movement
- The Marriage of Figaro, K. 492, act 3, "Ecco la marcia"
- The Marriage of Figaro, K. 492, act 4, "Ah, tutti contenti"
- Don Giovanni, K. 527, act 2, Commendatore scene
- Zaide K. 344, aria, "Ruhe sanft"
- Requiem, K. 626, "Introitus" (orchestra introduction)
- Requiem: "Dies irae"
- Requiem: "Rex tremendae majestatis"
- Requiem: "Confutatis"
- Requiem: "Lacrimosa"
- Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor, K. 466, second movement
The original soundtrack to Amadeus reached #56 on Billboard's album charts, making it one of the most popular recordings of classical music ever. All of the tracks were composed by Mozart, save an early Hungarian folk tune and the final movement Quando Corpus Morietur et Amen by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, from his famous Stabat Mater.
The film features some music that is not included on the original soundtrack album release. As stated above, except where specified, all tracks were performed by the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, conducted by Sir Neville Marriner, and all were performed specifically for use in the film. According to the film commentary by Forman and Schaffer, Marriner agreed to score the film if Mozart's music was completely unchanged from Mozart's original scores. Marriner did add some notes to Salieri's music that are noticeable in the beginning of the film, as Salieri begins his confession.
Music not included in the soundtrack
Music featured in the film but not included on the soundtrack album (but included in a later extended version):
- The Magic Flute, overture
- The Magic Flute, "Das klinget so herrlich"
- The Magic Flute, Queen of the Night aria ("Der Hölle Rache") performed by June Anderson
- The Magic Flute, "Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen..." (Papageno) and "Pa-pa-gena! ... Pa-pa-geno!" (Papageno and Papagena) performed by Brian Kay and Gillian Fisher
- Axur, re d'Ormus, "Son queste le speranze...", Salieri's opera shown as he begins his confession, and again prior to winning an award from the emperor.
- Die Entführung aus dem Serail, "Martern aller Arten", first opera that Mozart conducts in the film
- The Marriage of Figaro, "Non più andrai"
- The Marriage of Figaro, "Cinque...dieci...venti...trenta...", scene where Figaro (Samuel Ramey) is measuring a space for his wedding bed
- Don Giovanni, "Là ci darem la mano" appears as a parody, sung as "Give me a hoof my darling, and I'll give you my heart"
- Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor, K. 466, first movement
- Harpsichord piece in F major, K. 33B, played when Mozart is a child at the harpsichord (while blindfolded), then on the violin (without blindfold).
- Piano Concerto No.15 in B flat major, K. 450, third movement, played in the theatrical version when Mozart is walking through Vienna carrying a bottle of champagne, and in the director's cut when Mozart is teaching a girl to play the piano and is interrupted by barking dogs.
- The 'improvisation', "in the manner of Johann Sebastian Bach" is based on the duetto "Vivat Bacchus!" from Die Entführung aus dem Serail.
Awards and nominations
- Won (8)
- Best Actor in a Leading Role (F. Murray Abraham)
- Best Adapted Screenplay (Peter Shaffer)
- Best Art Direction (Karel Černý and Patrizia von Brandenstein)
- Best Costume Design (Theodor Pištěk)
- Best Picture (producer, Saul Zaentz)
- Best Director (Miloš Forman)
- Best Makeup (Dick Smith and Paul LeBlanc)
- Best Sound Mixing (Mark Berger, Thomas Scott, Todd Boekelheide and Christopher Newman)
- Won (4)
- Won (4)
- Won (1)
- Best Edited Feature Film (Nena Danevic and Michael Chandler)
- Won (1)
- Best Casting for Feature Film (Mary Goldberg)
- Won (1)
- Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures (Miloš Forman)
- Kansas City Film Critics Circle Award
- Won (1)
- Best Actor (F. Murray Abraham)
- Won (1)
- Won (4)
- Best Actor (F. Murray Abraham)
- Best Costume Design (Theodor Pištěk)
- Best Film (Miloš Forman and Saul Zaentz)
- Best Production Design (Patrizia von Brandstein)
- Best Screenplay – Adapted (Peter Shaffer)
- Won (3)
- Won (2)
- Best Actor – Foreign Film (Tom Hulce)
- Best Director – Foreign Film (Miloš Forman)
- Won (1)
- Won (1)
- Won (1)
- Best Foreign Feature Film
- "Amadeus". British Board of Film Classification. Retrieved May 13, 2014.
- "Amadeus (1984) - Financial Information". The Numbers. Retrieved December 22, 2014.
- Branagh, Kenneth (1990). Beginning. New York: Norton. pp. 105–109. ISBN 978-0-393-02862-1. OCLC 20669813.
- The Making of Amadeus. DVD. Warner Bros Pictures, 2001. 20 min.
- The English Patient weekend box office results, BoxOfficeMojo.com
- Amadeus weekend box office results, BoxOfficeMojo.com
- The Hurt Locker weekend box office results, BoxOfficeMojo.com
- Birdman weekend box office results, BoxOfficeMojo.com
- Olivier, by Terry Coleman, 2005, p 484
- "Academy Awards Acceptance Speeches". Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. 1985-03-25. Retrieved 2011-02-24.
- Sharon Waxman (March 21, 1999). "The Oscar Acceptance Speech: By and Large, It's a Lost Art". The Washington Post.
- A.V. Club interview with Miloš Forman, April 24, 2002
- Fox, Margalit (2011-02-17). "John Strauss, Composer of Car 54 Theme, Dies at 90". The New York Times. Archived from the original on April 23, 2011. Retrieved 2011-02-24.
- "The 57th Academy Awards (1985) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 2011-10-13.
- "Amadeus". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-01-01.
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