The true story of Ludwig van Beethoven, focusing on a letter he wrote
to a nameless love and his secretary's search for the woman's identity.
Immortal Beloved (1994)
Written and Directed by Bernard Rose
Starring Gary Oldman, Jeroen Krabbé, Isabella Rossellini,
Johanna ter Steege, Marco Hofschneider, Miriam Margolyes,
Barry Humphries, Valeria Golino, Christopher Fulford
I didn't have very high expectations for Immortal Beloved. It was a biopic that fell through the cracks of the 90's and wasn't very highly regarded upon its release. Having now watched it, I will never understand why this film isn't put on a pedestal as one of the greatest films of Gary Oldman's career. Immortal Beloved is a fantastic biopic, beautifully weaving together the myth and the madness surrounding Ludwig van Beethoven. It tells the story of one of history's most complicated artists, a man who was hated by everyone in his life. This film tells you why he was who he was and how his life's work would've been impossible without it.
Gary Oldman disappears into the role of Beethoven, becoming the legendary composer in every respect. I've always enjoyed Oldman's work and his performance in this film ranks among his best. He shows the complications behind Beethoven's eccentric behavior, and how he lived for nothing but his music. The film also tells the story of a letter Beethoven wrote to the love of his life, a woman he called his "Immortal Beloved." The plot of the film revolves around Beethoven's secretary Anton Schindler (Jeroen Krabbé) trying to uncover the identity of this woman. By the film's end, when the woman's identity is discovered, the root cause behind Beethoven's hatred of life is revealed as well. I didn't expect to be moved, but it brought literal tears to my eyes.
I would compare Immortal Beloved to Amadeus, in terms of brilliant storytelling and impeccable performances. It gives us a look into the mind of a true madman, an artist who created beautiful music without being able to hear it. Through all of his misdeeds and horrible mistreatment of those who loved him, you can't help but feel sorry for Beethoven's sheer isolation. This film shows his inner darkness but provides a light within as well. It's this light that was snuffed out when Beethoven lost his Immortal Beloved.