Oscar: Amadeus (1984)–Milos Forman’s Second Best Picture Winner

A must-see movie for any music and movie musical lover, Amadeus is one of Hollywood’s few successful works that does justice to its subject, the genius of composer Mozart. Rich, dense, and smart entertainment, sumptuous in its period and costume recreation, and brilliant in the acting of the two leads, though the women are weak, even if they play secondary roles.

Milos Forman’s brilliant adaptation of Peter Shaffer’s Tony award-winning play, “Amadeus” is a fictionalized account of the last days of composer Antonio Salieri (F. Murray Abraham, in the one of the few decent screen performances he’s given), who looks back with envy and admiration at his relationship with genius musician Mozart.

A famous but mediocre (by his own admission) composer in Mozart’s day, now incarcerated in an insane asylum, Salieri begins his confession to a young cleric. Salieri tells of his bizarre relationship with Mozart (Tom Hulce, brilliant) in a 30-year-flashback to when he first met the prodigy, then only 26.

amadeus_6The discerning but untalented Salieri has great influence in Vienna, being the court composer to Joseph II of Austria (Jeffrey Jones), who realizes he knows little about music and therefore allows Salieri to decide what he should hear and whom he should sponsor as patron.

After Mozart manages to get the Emperor’s ear, his career is launched, and we see him writing and conducting several of his pieces; the only clichd scenes in the movie.

Sadly, Mozart’s friends, health, and all other resources gradually begin to waste away. He works most feverishly on one of his masterpieces, “Requiem,” which is commissioned by a masked stranger, who is actually Salieri. The effort proves the final stroke against the great composer’s severely weekend faculties, and he’s buried in a pauper’s grave.

As director, Forman insisted that the actors do not do foreign accents and instead speak in their own voices, which contributed to their human scale and relatability factor–unlike characters in many Hollywood costume and period dramas.

Forman’s direction is assured and functional, if also impersonal.  It’s devoid of the more personal touches in such films as “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” which won the 1975 Oscars.  Though Forman concentrates on Mozart’s more familiar and popular works, he conveys vividly the prodigious output of Mozart’s short life.

amadeus_3Neville Marriner’s musical direction is superb, and the film is a feast to both the ears and eyes.

Oscar Nominations: 11

Picture, produced by Saul Zaentz Director: Milos Forman Screenplay (Adapted): Peter Shaffer Actor: F. Murray Abraham Actor: Tom Hulce

Art Direction-Set Decoration: Patricia Von Brandenstein; Karel Creny Cinematography: Miroslav Ondricek Editing: Nena Danevic, Michael Chandler Sound: Mark Berger, Tom Scott, Todd Boekelheide, Chris Newman Costume Design: Theodor Pistek Makeup: Paul LeBlanc, Dick Smith



Oscar Awards: 8

Picture Director Actor (F. Murray Abraham) Screenplay Art Direction-Set Decoration Sound Costume Design Makeup