Some people watch films only for feel-good entertainment. “Going to the movies” is often a synonym of “having a nice time”. I respect their wish to avoid serious, dark, or depressing films. Somehow, I was able to nurture an open-mindedness that allowed me to appreciate a wider range of films than those intended purely for the box-office. Some of these films have affected me personally to a profound level, and hence I will include them in my list.
To say that I’m a big fan of Mozart would be a gross understatement. If anyone will believe it, I spent 16 years searching for a Divertimento that I ultimately discovered was composed by him at the age of just 16. Child prodigy, genius, art, artist, come together in this compelling drama of music in the 18th century. In Amadeus, the score is not secondary to the visuals, it is an equal and integral part of the cinematic experience.
Characterizing Mozart as a 18th century classical hippie rock star brought him down from a pedestal and made him accessible to the masses. Forman says he needed an unknown face, not a well-known celebrity, for playing Mozart and this explains the casting of Tom Hulce. Both Hulce and Abraham deliver strong performances – Hulce’s slight overacting was required of the script.
The film is based on Peter Schaffer’s fictional play, which takes plenty of dramatic license in altering Mozart and Salieri’s true character and relationship. Composition did not come easily to Mozart (the supposed ‘dictation from God’), they mutually respected each other, and Salieri did not squeeze The Requiem out of him during his last hours. Peter Brown’s “Amadeus and Mozart” set the record straight for those interested in separating fact from fiction. However, no other art work has popularized Mozart in over 200 years since his death, as Shaffer’s play and Forman’s film.
The filming of Don Giovanni is in the actual opera house where Mozart conducted its premiere. The costumes, streets, apartments, and palaces provide lots of ‘eye candy’. The Making Of Amadeus documentary describes the difficulties of shooting on location in Prague. The Director’s Cut has 20 minutes of additional footage, most importantly the scene of Salieri asking Constanze for sexual favors, Constanze visiting him at his apartment, and the burial of Mozart’s corpse.
Independent producer Saul Zaentz worked with Milos Forman to bring us Amadeus and One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, and we should be eternally grateful. Forman went on to direct the excellent The People vs. Larry Flynt.
Adapting the germ of Heart of Darkness to the Vietnam War, Coppola paints a masterful cinematic canvas unparalleled in its operatic scope. Brando’s Kurtz discovers the horror of war that we hope never to discover. The exhilarating and terrifying helicopter attack with Wagner at the background is an achievement in film-making. If the ending doesn’t make sense – it is not supposed to, for that is the brutality and horror of war, and there is no light in the heart of darkness. Coppola transports you magnificently into the insanity of war.
Other contenders were: