The Competition (film)

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The Competition
Poster of the movie The Competition.jpg
Directed by Joel Oliansky
Produced by William Sackheim
Written by Joel Oliansky
Joel Oliansky & William Sackheim (story)
Starring Richard Dreyfuss
Amy Irving
Lee Remick
Sam Wanamaker
Music by Lalo Schifrin
Cinematography Richard H. Kline
Edited by David Blewitt
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date
  • December 3, 1980 (1980-12-03)
Running time
125 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $14.3 million[1]

The Competition is a 1980 American drama film starring Richard Dreyfuss and Amy Irving, directed by Joel Oliansky.[2]


Paul Dietrich is an extremely gifted but disillusioned classical pianist running out of time to prove himself. He logically knows it is time to give up his attempts to enter piano competitions and instead accept a salaried position as a music teacher. Paul also needs to help his mother and his seriously ill father, but he decides to travel to San Francisco for an international piano competition. Doing so could cost him his job waiting for him in Chicago; nevertheless, he wants to try his luck for the last time before passing the age limit to compete.

The competition for a financial grant and two years of concert engagements pits the intense and arrogant Paul against a select group of talented artists. He advances to the final round of six, which includes a brash New Yorker named Jerry DiSalvo, who only knows how to play one concerto, Michael Humphries, who rehearses in the nude, Canadian pianist, Mark Landau, who is note-perfect but emotionally moribund, and a meek Russian girl, Tatjana Baronova, whose teacher disrupts the competition by defecting to the United States.

Another contestant, Heidi Joan Schoonover, is a young American who developed a romantic inclination toward Paul after meeting him at a music festival. Heidi's esteemed music teacher, Greta Vandemann, advises her to avoid letting personal matters interfere with her concentration. Heidi is also rudely rebuffed by Paul, who also wants to avoid any distraction.

Despite his situation, Paul asks Heidi for a date and pours his heart out to her about his family situation. Just before the competition, she realizes how much winning means to Paul and wants to drop out. Greta, angry, later chastises Paul, blaming him for hurting Heidi's chances by exploiting her guilt over competing against him.

Paul finds Heidi and says that he loves her, and persuades her to stay in the competition. Partway through her performance, Heidi's piano develops a technical problem forcing her to stop. Rather than fold under pressure, Heidi angrily demands to play a different concerto and performs it magnificently. Heidi wins the competition, and Paul finishes in second place.

Immediately after winning, Heidi is ecstatic because she and Paul had agreed to form a partnership, combining their talents and resources to help one another, no matter who won. To her surprise, Paul is upset to realize that she is a more proficient player, telling her he is unable to accept the partnership, then leaves. However, Paul eventually arrives at the celebration party after the competition, ready to take part in Heidi's victory and to be in her life.



Awards nomination[edit]

1981 Academy Awards
1981 Golden Globe Awards
  • Nominated, Best Original Score - Motion Picture - Lalo Schifrin
1st Golden Raspberry Award


  1. ^
  2. ^ Variety film review; December 3, 1980, page 24.

External links[edit]