Fathers, sons, and requiems

In 1984, my dad took me and my sister to see Amadeus at the cinema. We would go to see a movie, usually something from the Disney catalogue of animated features, as a family once a year, but this wasn’t part of the annual ritual. My dad was an avid hobby musician and he loved Mozart’s music, so he wanted to see the film with his children. I was nine at the time, and I’m sure my dad didn’t expect the mature themes or the scatology. I don’t really remember seeing any other films just with my dad when I was a kid, rather than with my mum or both my parents, but Amadeus stayed with me. As a pretentious little nine-year-old, I loved it – less so for Mozart’s impish, infantile irreverence than for the drama and the dark humour. Or perhaps that’s me projecting into my younger self, 38 years after the fact.

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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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