Amadeus on DVD
While the story of a long dead classical music composer may not
sound like the stuff of which cinematic dreams are made, in the right hands it
can be a compelling and highly enjoyable film.
Such is the case with Peter Shaffers adaptation of his own
play, directed by the sure hand of Milos Forman and with a cast that brings to
life the glory days of eighteenth century Austria and all that went with
But this isnt so much the tale of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,
from whose name the title is derived, as it is the story of Antonio Salieri (F.
Murray Abraham) - court composer to Austrias Emperor Joseph
Salieri was master of his domain until the young genius Mozart
(Tom Hulce, who really shines in the portrayal) showed up and pushed him into
the footnotes of history. Mozart was everything Salieri wasnt, and as
much as Salieri learned to despise the rough-edged composer and hate everything
for which he stood, he couldnt help but be in complete awe of his
masterful abilities, talents that made it seem to Salieri as if God himself
were speaking through Mozarts music.
It was, to Salieri, as if God - to Whom he had committed his
entire life and ability - were throwing his entire life back into his face. So
he turned his back on his God, determined to destroy the animal Mozart who made
him feel so totally inadequate.
The original version of Amadeus was a masterpiece of filmmaking, a
spectacular period piece that was perfectly cast, written and crafted - so why
bother with a directors cut when directors cuts so often (with
certain exceptions, of course) can mean the addition of self indugence or, at
least, the gilding of a lily?
Well, if nothing else its a good marketing opportunity but,
after not having seen Amadeus since its original introdution on VHS many years
ago, to this reviewer's less than perfect memory the new version holds up very
well and actually adds some interesting perspective that fills in a couple of
For example, we now know why Wolfgangs wife, Constanze (well
played by Elizabeth Berridge), hates Salieris guts, thanks to an added
scene or two that fleshes out their relationship.
The movie doesnt seem longer, though it is, nor does it seem
padded, so this is one directors cut that stands up as if not the best
version, at least as good as the original.
Its also an excellent DVD, with a newly and digitally
remastered, beautifully rich and colorful anamorphic widescreen picture that
just cries out for a big, widescreen TV. And the audio, which is now offered in
Dolby Digital 5.1 surround, does justice to the music of the master. The sound
is glorious, and it fills the room in a most appropriate and pleasant manner.
If you werent a fan of Mozart when you sit down to watch Amadeus, you
probably will be by the time its over.
Part of the joy comes not only from Mozarts music, but from
writer Shaffers vision of Salieri reacting to Mozarts music. We see
this no-more-than-adequate composer, who loves music above all else, in
positive rapture at how the vulgar Mozart has structured his music, letting us
in the audience in on just how innovative and glorious his compositions
actually were. Its enough to make you run out and buy Mozarts
Greatest Hits the instant the movie is over.
This is a DVD treatment Amadeus deserves.
Even the extras excel in this two disc set. Director Forman and
writer Shaffer turn out a pretty good commentary, though they seem almost
mesmerized by the movie and that prevents them from doing much more than merely
offering the odd anecdote. But thats okay.
And then theres the second disc, which includes an excellent
newly-shot, hour-long "making of" documentary that includes contributions from
Forman, Shaffer, Sir Neville Marriner (who conducts the orchestra that brings
all the music to beautiful life), and the major actors of the piece. This
documentary covers the scriptwriting, the choice of music, casting, and even
looks at the problems and the benefits involved in filming Amadeus in
What a spectacular piece of movie making - and DVD making,
Amadeus, the Directors Cut, from Warner Home Video
180 min. anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 TV compatible, Dolby Digital
Starring F. Murray Abraham, Tom Hulce, Elizabeth Berridge, Simon Callow,
Roy Dotrice, Jeffrey Jones,
Produced by Saul Zaentz
Peter Shaffer, Directed by Milos Forman
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