Beethoven Lives Upstairs

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Beethoven Lives Upstairs
Based onWork of the same name
by Barbara Nichol
Screenplay byHeather Conkie
Directed byDavid Devine
StarringIllya Woloshyn
Neil Munro
Fiona Reid
Paul Soles
Country of originCanada
Original languageEnglish
Executive producerTerence Robinson
ProducersDavid Devine
Richard Mozer
CinematographyDavid Perrault
EditorRik Morden
Running time51 minutes
Original networkHBO
Original release
  • 1992 (1992)

Beethoven Lives Upstairs is a 1992 HBO Original Film produced and directed by David Devine. Based on a very popular children's audio recording written and directed by Barbara Nichol, the film stars Illya Woloshyn as Christoph, a young boy who develops a friendship with composer Ludwig van Beethoven (Neil Munro), a boarder in the boy's parents' house. The film was shot in Prague in the Czech Republic and has been broadcast in over 110 countries in numerous languages and has sold over one million DVDs. The film is used extensively, thanks to its American Library Association's reviews and awards, in U.S. and Canadian elementary and middle school music classrooms.

The film went on to win the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Children's Program in 1993,[1] was nominated for numerous Gemini Awards, won the New England Film Festival, and was presented the Award of Excellence from the U.S. National Board of Film Review. Beethoven Lives Upstairs was also admitted to the Permanent Collection in the Paley Center for Media in New York City.


Ten-year-old Christoph's father, a physician, has died, forcing his family to rent their upstairs room to a boarder to help make ends meet. Christoph's uncle Kurt, a student at the Vienna Conservatory, arranges for Ludwig van Beethoven to rent the room. Despite Beethoven's dismissive attitude toward him, Kurt is thrilled at the prospect of having the famous composer living at his late brother's house, but Christoph does not like the idea of a stranger living with them. Christoph's fears are confirmed when he encounters Beethoven's rude and eccentric behavior, and teasing from the neighborhood children.

When Sophie, their housekeeper, suggests that Beethoven is a heavy drinker, Christoph surreptitiously follows him on one of his walks. Beethoven's mannerisms, including humming to himself (presumably composing as he walks) and dumping food on a waiter following an argument, convinces Christoph that Beethoven is a madman. Christoph complains to Kurt, who talks about the pain of Beethoven's deafness and implores Christoph to give him a chance. Kurt mentions that Beethoven is working on his Ninth Symphony, which Christoph hopes will be his last.

When Christoph's mother enters Beethoven's room, Beethoven is writing music on the shutters, presumably having run out of paper. Seeing her shock, he suggests she could sell the shutters as collectors items. He asks her about her musical background, and she plays "Für Elise" for him, beginning to see his softer side.

While working with musicians on the Ninth Symphony in his room, Beethoven needs to write down changes, but all the pens have been destroyed by his previous fits. They frantically send Christoph out to buy some, but by the time he returns with the pens, the other musicians have left. Beethoven then invites Christoph to join him on his walk. While on the walk, the two begin to open up to one another; it is at this time that Beethoven mentions that his alcoholic father abused him as a child and that he has very few happy memories of him.

When Sophie comes down from Beethoven's room, fuming after yet another quarrel, Christoph defends him. After overhearing Beethoven talk about his misery from being deaf, Christoph gives him an ear trumpet designed by his father.

Kurt comes over to the house for another rehearsal with Beethoven, beaming that he has been selected to be part of the orchestra at the premiere of the Ninth Symphony. The singers complain about the difficulty of their parts, but Beethoven reassures them he would not have chosen them if he did not think they were capable. When he sees Christoph and his mother listening outside the door, he promises them tickets to the performance.

As the date of the concert nears, Beethoven becomes increasingly stressed and frustrated by setbacks. Christoph enters after Beethoven has had another quarrel with Sophie, and accidentally spills the sheet music for the concert. Beethoven, infuriated and fed up, then orders him to leave the room. Christoph fears that Beethoven now hates him and will not give him the tickets, but Kurt reassures him that Beethoven's notorious tempers are short-lived and that someone able to write music as he does must have a great heart. Later, Beethoven apologizes to Sophie for his behavior and gives her the tickets to give to Christoph and his mother.

The concert is a great success. Beethoven is nominally conducting, but is unable to hear the orchestra, and Kurt, acting as a second conductor, discreetly directs the musicians from the side. When the orchestra finishes, Beethoven is behind and still "conducting", so Kurt and one of the sopranos turn him around so he can see the audience giving him a wild standing ovation.

Several years later, after Beethoven's death, Christoph reflects on his experiences with Beethoven, saying that although Beethoven is gone, "his music will never die", and how Beethoven "thought he could change the world with his music – maybe he will... bit by bit."



Year Award Category Recipient(s) and nominee(s) Result Ref
1993 Primetime Emmy Awards Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Children's Program Beethoven Lives Upstairs Won
Gemini Awards Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Dramatic Program or Mini-Series Neil Munro Nominated
Best Writing in a Dramatic Program or Mini-series Heather Conkie Nominated
Best Picture Editing in a Dramatic Program or Series Rik Morden Nominated
Best Overall Sound in a Dramatic Program or Series Susan Hammond, Greg Chapman
Steve Gorman, David Appleby, Andy Malcolm
1994 CableACE Awards International Children's Programming Special or Series Beethoven Lives Upstairs Nominated


  1. ^ "BEETHOVEN LIVES UPSTAIRS". Emmys. 30 June 2011. Retrieved 10 August 2019.

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