Beethoven Lives Upstairs

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Beethoven Lives Upstairs
Beethoven Lives Upstairs.jpg
Directed by David Devine
Produced by David Devine
Richard Mozer
Terence Robinson
Written by Heather Conkie
Starring Illya Woloshyn
Neil Munro
Fiona Reid
Paul Soles
Cinematography David Perrault
Edited by Rik Morden
Release date
Running time
51 min.
Country Canada
Language English

Beethoven Lives Upstairs is a Canadian 1992 HBO Original Films TV movie 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 and is used extensively in U.S. and Canadian elementary and middle school music classrooms.[citation needed]

The film went on to win the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Children's Program in 1993, was nominated for numerous Gemini Awards, and was also admitted to the Permanent Collection in the Paley Center for Media in New York City.


Christoph's father, a physician, has died, forcing his family to rent their upstairs room to a boarder to make ends meet. Christoph's uncle Kurt, a student at the Vienna Conservatory, arranges for Beethoven to rent the room. Kurt is thrilled at the prospect of having the famous composer living at his brother's house, despite Beethoven's dismissive attitude toward him, but Christoph doesn't 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 soup 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; Christoph says he hopes it's 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 they 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 in his previous fits. They frantically send Christoph out to buy some. By the time he returns with the pens, the other musicians have left. Beethoven invites Christoph to join him on his walk. The two begin to open up to one another, with Beethoven talking about his unhappy memories of his father.

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

Kurt comes over to the house for another rehearsal with Beethoven, beaming that he's 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 wouldn't have chosen them if he didn't 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 is 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 angrily chases him out. Christoph fears that Beethoven now hates him and won't 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. Even though Beethoven is nominally conducting, he is unable to hear the orchestra, and a second conductor discreetly conducts 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 while Beethoven is gone, "his music will never die." Beethoven "thought he could change the world with his music -- maybe he will... bit by bit."


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