Movie: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
The movie takes place in Vienna, Austria in the 1700’s. The film begins
with the attempted suicide of Antonio Salieri, a court composer of the Austrian
Emperor. He is placed in a mental asylum where a priest visits and asks for his
confession. Salieri claims to have caused the death of Mozart. The rest of the
movie is a narration by the court composer, mostly in flashbacks, of how he
caused this death.
Salieri recounts that while he was playing games as a boy Mozart was
playing music for the King. At the age of four, Mozart composed his first
concerto, at seven, his first symphony, and at twelve, his first opera. He was
considered a child prodigy.
Salieri wished to become a famous composer, like his idol. However, his
father would not allow this. He didn’t want his son to be a trained monkey, on
tour around Europe performing tricks like a circus’. Salieri prayed to God and
what he considered a miracle happened: his father dies and he was able to pursue
his musical studies. He eventually became a popular musician and teacher in the
Emperor’s court. When he heard Mozart was coming to Vienna from Salzburg, he
eagerly sought him out. He finally found him at a party, way from the other
guests, acting like a silly animal, chasing a young woman. However, as soon as
he heard his music starting without him, he changed into a serious musician,
rushing to take his place as conductor. Salieri noticed that Mozart conducted
without notes. Although he recognized that Mozart was a giggling, dirty-minded
creature’, he was also able to see the genius in him. He couldn’t understand why
God had chosen a obscene child to be his instrument’. At another time, Mozart’s
wife presents to Salieri some of his work in an attempt to get him a job as a
teacher. Salieri sees that the music sheets have no corrections and no notes.
Mozart simply composed from his head onto paper. It is then that Salieri is
overwhelmed by his brilliance. He realized that God has given to Mozart the
skills and genius that he has always prayed for, and all he gave to Salieri is
the ability to recognize it. It is at this point that he turned away from God
and set out to ruin Mozart.
Salieri then describes what Mozart was like. Mozart drank too much, he
partied all day and composed all night. He disobeyed his father by marrying
without permission. He was stressed out. He had bad manners, he was
inconsiderate of his wife and child, rude to others, selfish and conceited. He
had a horrible financial situation. He spent money he didn’t have and had many
debts. In other words, the only positive part of his personality was his
Mozart’s father came for a stay. There was much friction between his
father and his wife. His father, who had devoted so much time to teaching his
son music, was devastated by his lifestyle. They argued and the result was the
departure of Herr Mozart. His father died a short time later.
One day, a housemaid offers her services to the poor Mozart family. She
explains that she will be paid for by a anonymous admirer, but in fact Salieri
has hired her to spy. He discovers that Mozart is putting forbidden parts into
his opera. Salieri tries to ruin him but the Emperor bends the rules to allow
Mozart to play his brilliant music. The opera is a masterpiece and made Salieri
more jealous and angrier at both Mozart and God. He uses his position as court
composer to cancel the show after only a few performances, and does this with
other operas also. As a result, Mozart becomes poorer, more discouraged and acts
crazier and even mocks his dead father.
Near the end of the movie, Salieri disguises himself in a costume worn
before by Herr Mozart. He offers young Mozart a lot of money to compose a
funeral (requiem) mass. His plan is to have Mozart write this piece, then kill
Mozart and pretend that he (Salieri) has written this wonderful music for the
dead composer. However, Mozart cannot complete the opera. Instead, he gets
sicker and sicker. He seems to be going insane. He becomes physically ill as
well. He drinks and parties all hours. His wife finally leaves him.
One evening, while conducting a popular opera, he collapses. Although
Salieri hates him, he also secretly cannot stay away from his brilliant
performances, so he is there when Mozart collapses. He brings him home and tries
to get him to finish his requiem mass. In his last few hours, they seem to be
almost friends. In the morning, Mrs. Mozart returns just in time to see her
husband die. Because of their poverty, Mozart is buried with other men in a
communal, unmarked grave.
Now Salieri once again blames God, this time for killing Mozart and
keeping Salieri alive to suffer. As the movie ends, Salieri is being wheeled
through a room of mentally ill patients and this is where he will spend his
I think that Hollywood may have over-exaggerated Mozart’s behaviour. In
my reading there is no evidence that he was like this. I wonder if Salieri
really hated or was jealous of Mozart. Did Salieri really plan to kill the
composer? The World Book Encyclopedia states that Mozart did try to earn money
by teaching pupils. There is no mention of any abnormal behavior.
Whether the movie is true or false, I think the movie tries to show that
genius is next to madness. A person may excel in one subject, yet the growth of
the other parts of his behavior may be stunted. The movie also points out that
jealousy brings misery. Salieri was well paid and popular, had a high position,
and had respect from other people. Yet he remained unhappy and even ruined his
life, all over the fact that another musician was better than he. Finally, it’s
a great tragedy that Mozart died so young and penniless.
The movie was well acted, and the music was beautiful to hear.
Music and Movies