A Damn Fine Cup of Culture Podcast #53: Exactly the right number of notes – Amadeus (1984)

Some of us remember when we first heard that high-pitched giggle at the cinema, and watched as a thoroughly mediocre man, though one with an eye and an ear for genius, vowed to destroy the greatest composer of his generation: in 1984, Milos Forman’s film adaptation of Peter Shaffer’s stage play Amadeus came out – and made a great splash the following year at the Academy Awards, being nominated for eleven Oscars and winning eight of those, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor (though, admittedly, it had doubled its chances of getting the latter by nominating both of its leads – a delightfully meta continuation of the Salieri/Mozart rivalry depicted in the film). Although Amadeus is often called a biopic, our baristas argue that it is something different altogether, and something infinitely more interesting at that. Join Julie, Sam and Matt as they revisit the 1984 hit and discuss its legacy.

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The Rear-View Mirror: Amadeus (1984)

Each Friday we travel back in time, one year at a time, for a look at some of the cultural goodies that may appear closer than they really are in The Rear-View Mirror. Join us on our weekly journey into the past!

It is a riveting scene, and one that at a glance would seem entirely uncinematic: the younger man, sick, pale and sweaty, lies in bed and dictates music to the older man, who scribbles musical notes onto paper as if it was a race against time – which it is. The brilliant composer will not live much longer. It is a scene that doesn’t seem to need the big screen: it could just as well be performed on stage, and this is in fact where it originated. None of this seems immediately cinematic – yet it is one of the great moments of 1980s cinema: Mozart and and his bitter, envious rival Salieri racing against death to get his final masterpiece, the Requiem in D minor, K. 626, out of the dying man’s head and onto paper so it would be preserved for posterity.

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