Written by Peter Shaffer
Directed by Milos Forman
Starring F. Murray Abraham, Tom Hulce
It really is a great movie. I was going to try to be technical and acute about this, but there's no point in trying. The Wednesday Classics aren't about dissecting what makes something great, and often times it's impossible to even attempt that.
Amadeus is one of the great films, and it is my choice for the greatest movie made to date (Ever assumes nothing made after this could better it, something I choose not to believe). The demons Salieri (Abraham) wrestles with are profound, and superb. At a young age, he offers his chastity to God in exchange for the ability to bring Him glory through great music. For the longest time, he believes that the bargain is being upheld, until he discovers Mozart, the gifts Mozart possesses, and the manner in which Mozart carries himself. Salieri believes that Mozart is giving God voice through music, that God has chosen this contemptable individual to be His vessel, and vows to destroy Mozart.
But don't let that stop you! I know it can sound over done, but it's really not. The movie is filled with brilliant moment after brilliant moment; a personal favourite is just before the first time we meet Mozart, when Salieri is walking around the room, trying to see if he can tell which of the people at the party is Mozart, wondering to himself if such genius is apparent on one's face. Moments like that take my breath away, regularly, and they are tossed off as though they are nothing, which, I suppose, is part of why they work. Moments like that which are focused on can seem obvious, or cheesy. The delivery here is such that you can only watch in amazement.
There's not much bad to say about it, though it may be too long (2.5 hours) or too slow for some. I don't have a problem with it. The whole affair is driven, as all the best stories are, by the characters, by what they want and what they desire. It is not meant to be a historically accurate representation of events, and you would do well to keep that in mind as well. It is a character study using the real figures of Antonio Salieri and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart to frame itself around. Nothing here can be improved. Nothing need be. Perfection.