The true story of legendary composer Wolfgang Amadeus
Mozart, as told by his bitter, jealous rival Antonio Salieri.
Directed by Milos Forman
Written by Peter Shaffer
Starring F. Murray Abraham, Tom Hulce, Elizabeth Berridge, Jeffrey Jones, Roy Dotrice, Simon Callow, Christine Ebersole, Charles Kay
Based on the stage play by Peter Shaffer
Oscar Wins - Best Picture, Best Actor (F. Murray Abraham),
Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Art Direction,
Best Costume Design, Best Sound Mixing, Best Makeup
Oscar Nominations - Best Actor (Tom Hulce), Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing
Amadeus is a larger than life biopic about two historical figures that are themselves larger than life, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonio Salieri. While history paints them differently than the film, the product is more of a retelling from an unreliable narrator. But what a story it is. Mozart and Salieri, two composers from Vienna in the mid 1700's whose work lives on today, are depicted in this film as polar opposites. Salieri: proper, humble, respected. Mozart: unrefined, arrogant, flamboyant. The film forces you to pick a side, and your opinion of the two men changes every time you watch the film, which is quite breathtaking in Forman's direction and Shaffer's brutal script.
Salieri (Abraham) tells the story of how he came to know Mozart (Hulce), and how he came to loathe and envy a ridiculous man who was far greater a composer than Salieri would ever be. So, Salieri takes it upon himself to ruin Mozart financially, then mentally by driving him mad. Both Abraham and Hulce do a phenomenal job, and it's next to impossible to choose which one really leads this 80's gem. There are scenes that paint Mozart as a complete fool, unworthy of holding court with the leaders of Austria. But was that how Mozart really was? Or is that how he was viewed by Salieri? We may never know. History remembers Mozart as quite possibly the greatest composer who ever lived. This film captures the human side to the legend, and quite frankly, he was a bit of an arrogant shit.
Amadeus took Best Picture at the '85 Oscars, and it certainly has the scale and dramatic heft to earn the award. The film benefits from the seasoned direction of Milos Forman and the outrageous but honest script from Peter Shaffer. It's a film that may not be completely honest with how it depicts the two composers' rivalry, but remains a great lesson in humanizing the giants of history.