Amadeus (1984)

Amadeus (1984)
  • Time: 160 min
  • Genre: Biography | Drama | Music
  • Director: Milos Forman
  • Cast: Tom Hulce, F. Murray Abraham, Elizabeth Berridge


Antonio Salieri believes that Mozart’s music is divine. He wishes he was himself as good a musician as Mozart so that he can praise the Lord through composing. But he can’t understand why God favored Mozart, such a vulgar creature, to be his instrument. Salieri’s envy has made him an enemy of God whose greatness was evident in Mozart. He is set to take revenge.


  • After you’ve seen a few, biopic can become fairly repetitive. They show a scene or two about the topic’s childhood, the show a few moments that craft the subject’s character, show the breakthrough, optional fall from grace, and death. The film is linear, well made and wins some Oscars..

    But here’s Amadeus, a film that could’ve easily dropped the more interesting aspects of the play and done a linear narrative. But it keeps the perspective of Salieri, long after the action takes place, in the asylum. That adds a whole layer to the film. Also, not having the camera follows Mozart’s every move shows that even in his prime, a composer isn’t the center of the world.

    Amadeus is an impossibly lavish film: like the similarly timed- Barry Lyndon, costumes and makeup are luscious, and the sets and decorations are grand. The opera scenes are incredible. Visually and technically, the film is marvellous.

    Then we get into the characters. The film focuses on the one-sided clash between jealous Salieri and childish Mozart. It makes the film more interesting than simply showing Mozart’s life. I found the clash relateable: there’s always someone who’s better than you at anything, though they may not be the eccentric Mozart is.

    I found it wrong that everyone speaks in a plain English accent, while making reference to “our language, German”. Also the film runs long, longer than it could have. And lastly, I don’t know what to get out of it. The end is quite nihilistic. Mediocrity. You lose. But they can’t spoil one of the best biographical films ever. 8/10!

  • “I was staring through the cage of those meticulous ink strokes – at an absolute beauty.”

    Milos Forman’s epic biopic on arguably the world’s most famous classical composer is nothing short of compelling. Peter Shaffer, who wins one of the film’s eight Academy Awards for Best Adapted Screenplay, adapts his own acclaimed stage play of the same name for the big screen.

    The film is set in the late 18th century and is told in a flashback narrated by an aged Antonio Salieri living in a mental asylum. Salieri was a competent court composer who became envious when he realized Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart had godlike musical gifts that he had always desired. Soon, Salieri became mad with jealousy and began plotting the downfall of Mozart, even harbouring thoughts of murdering him.

    History revealed that Mozart was poisoned to death. But was it Salieri who really murdered him? Amadeus explores the myth and dumbfounds us even further by subtly inferring that it may be and may not be Salieri who killed Mozart. The apparent greatness of Forman’s film is that it even prompts us to believe that there is a possibility that Mozart may have worked himself to death. The mystery remains unclear.

    But Forman’s film is not an account of Mozart’s death, but rather a celebration of his life and his music and how Salieri’s own pales in comparison. The contrast is obvious. Mozart is portrayed as a rude, impish, and womanizing figure while Salieri is religious, shuns alcohol, and has good social manners. Yet God chooses to bestow incredible musical talent on the former.

    Stage actor F. Murray Abraham who wins an Oscar for his role as Salieri gives an excellent, nuanced performance. And for a character who barely reveals his emotions to anyone, Abraham manages to accomplish that through the minimal use of facial expressions. He is so skillful that the subtle acting invites us to show sympathy towards his character even though he is portrayed as ‘an ambiguous villain’ in the film.

    On the other hand, Tom Hulce’s Oscar-nominated turn as Mozart is energetic, vibrant, and he tops it up with a silly but infectious high-pitched laugh that is perhaps what is remembered best by many.

    Amadeus not only deals with the rivalry between the two central characters, but Salieri’s love-hate relationship with God as well. This creates a triangular tension which brings a more satisfying depth to the film. Forman’s decision to film most of the scenes in his native homeland of Czechoslovakia pays off wonderfully, contributing to the film’s realism as many of the city’s architecture dates back to Mozart’s era.

    Amadeus is surprisingly engaging despite its subject matter and that it runs close to three hours. The brilliant selection of Mozart’s compositions (conducted and supervised by Neville Marriner) that make up the film’s heavenly soundtrack is, in my opinion, the defining factor that makes Amadeus such a sumptuous, glorious period epic.

    GRADE: A- (8.5/10 or 4 stars)
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