Even though I was just a kid when Amadeus was first released, I still remember the enormous buzz surrounding the film at the time. I even remember a one-panel comic which had an office working complaining to a colleague: “Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, all I ever hear about is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.” The hype was such that theatrical posters for the film included the tagline “Everything you have head is true.” There was so much talk not just because of the greatness of the subject, but also the greatness of the film.
Amadeus is so “dramatized” that it can really be viewed as nothing other than complete fantasy. The rivalry between Salieri and Mozart which is the main theme of the film is reflected in letters between Mozart and his father, but it certainly wasn’t deadly.
But who cares about historical accuracy when you have the performances of Tom Hulce and especially F. Murray Abraham. Director Milos Forman was wise enough to know that he already had the big names of Mozart and Salieri so didn’t need any big names for the roles, and was able to turn down David Bowie, Mick Jagger and a long list of other would-be actors who were vying to play Mozart. He hired two lesser-known actors, but what actors! Abraham won an Oscar and deserved it. They had a lot to work with, as Peter Shaffer’s dialogue contains some of the most beautiful descriptions of music ever written, and transforms the music of Mozart into the third character in the film.
Amadeus is one of the handful of films that I watch at least once a year and it is always a real emotional workout, no matter how many times I have seen it.