1. The American feature film “Amadeus” directed by Milos Forman, released in 1984, inspired this essay. The film was so successful that it was rewarded with eight Oscars.
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The aim of this paper is to explain, analyze and critique critical aspect of this film: writing. In the end of the essay, one can easily understand that there are certain differences between film and literature. As “Amadeus” has the features of a literary adaptation, it gives an opportunity to compare the mediums. What are the peculiarities in the writing of the mentioned film from the critical point of view? It seems to be extremely important to achieve the aim of the essay to reveal the film through the other light.
2. The structure of the essay is similar to Giannetti’s chapter of the book about understanding films in the area of writing; being the author of a book in cinema theory, he masterfully described all the necessary components of film writing (Gianntti, 2010). Any details concerning the writing of feature films provide people “with a new way of looking at familiar films” (Giannetti, 2010, back cover). “Amadeus” is a drama biopic, based on the stage play by Peter Shaffer, British screenwriter.
In 1979, under the impression of Pushkin’s tragedy “Mozart and Salieri”, Shaffer wrote the play that can be described as free interpretation of the composers’ biographies. Thus, Shaffer can be considered the principal screenwriter of the film “Amadeus”. Of course, Milos Forman and actors saturated the scenario with their own words. Nevertheless, the collaborative screenwriting in this film is evident.
3. The screenplay is based on a quite famous plot. Many people may consider that “Amadeus” is Mozart’s biography, but this opinion is wrong. Actually, this is a tragic story of Antonio Salieri, who is talented but not a genius composer, as Mozart. The screenplay reveals his desperate struggle with God by means of Mozart.
In spite of the noticeable difference between Mozart’s music gift and Salieri’s mediocrity, evil Salieri’s plan, and Mozart’s death, Salieri realizes that Mozart was with a God-given talent.
In the final scene, where Salieri spends his last days in the asylum, annoying and childish Mozart’s laugh shows that God always has the last laugh. Thus, the screenplay reveals the main theme of “Amadeus”: God gives people a strong wish to achieve something (in this case, to become a prominent and perfect composer), but he does not give them equivalent abilities (Forman, 1984).
Being the blueprint of the finished product, the scenario has exceptionally literate language. Naturally, the screenplays are often modified by the actors who play the characters, and this film is not an exception. Good acting and beautiful music of the prominent composers (Salieri and Mozart) make a valuable contribution in realizing of the scenario in the film.
However, non-verbal figurative techniques play an essential role in the cinema. In “Amadeus”, one can see the traces of motifs, symbols and metaphors. Owing to them, people can catch the main film’s massage, and understand its profound essence.
4. The principal motif of the film is based on Salieri’s and Mozart’s biographical facts in Shaffer’s stage play. For example, the director successfully shows the legend about Mozart’s death: in the episode, when Solieri forces Mozart to compose the requiem. Also, the spread opinion about Salieri’s envy and negative attitude to the talented figure of Mozart is presented through detailed Salieri’s character.
Besides the motifs, the film is saturated with symbols. Mozart can be compared with God. According to Salieri’s opinion it is God who helps the genius Mozart to compose such brilliant pieces of music art. Mozart’s genius suggests the mediocrity of his music “rival”. Mozart’s composed requiem symbolizes his death, and the idea that Mozart’s talented music works can not be stolen by either Solieri or anyone else.
One more symbol in the film is thought provoking. When Solieri is transported past madmen in the asylum, he sees in them the symbol of human mediocrity. Slieri’s bitter experience shows that he is one of the most untalented and mediocre men in the world. The brightest metaphor in the film is Mozart’s embodiment of God, who is cursed by Solieri. As the film is based on the play with the famous plot, “Amadeus” is full of allusions.
An allusion helps to imply the reference to a well-known personality, event, or historic fact. In this case, the film depicts Solieri’s tragic story, where real facts are described: the Solieri’s and Mozart’s characteristic features as personalities and composers, Solieri’s suicide attempt, his relationships with Mozart, Mozart’s music works (especially, “Requiem” and “The magic flute”), the circumstances of his death, etc.
5. Point of view in literary fiction generally concerns the narrator, through whose words the events of a story are understood. The ideas and incidents are sifted through the consciousness and language of the storyteller. In “Amadeus”, Solieri is the participant in the action, and may be a reliable guide for readers to follow.
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He is the first-person narrator: he tells the priest his story, and events of the film, that happened thirty years ago, bring the viewers to Vienna, when Solieri was a successful and popular court composer. One can see his character’s evolution, his tragedy that in the end led him to the asylum.
6. As it was mentioned, “Amadeus” is the film adaptation of the literary source. In some respects, adapting a novel or play requires more skill and discipline than working with an original screenplay. Moreover, a good literary work is difficult to be adapted. The real problem of the adapter is centered not in the content of a literary work (in this case, the stage play), but in the subject matter. The film may be considered as faithful adaptation.
Its degree of fidelity is rooted in recreation of a true story with real characters; the director keeps the spirit of the original, as close as possible. The base for the film, together with all modifications, introduced by the director and actors, and creative work of the film crew created the unique piece of cinema art called “Amadeus”.
7. In spite of the majority of critical opinions concerning this film (the director is critics for subjective views of real facts that can not be distorted), Milos Forman masterfully presents to the public the cinema, based on the play and real events. The aim of the essay is surely achieved: the critical aspect of writing in “Amadeus” is explained, analyzed and criticized.
Both literary and film work are pieces of art; in contrast to the literature, the film adaptation has the right to modify the content, keeping the subject matter. Nevertheless, one thing is evident: “Amadeus” is a good example of faithful adaptation of Shaffer’s stage play about Mozart and Solieri.
Forman, M. (Dir.) (1984). “Amadeus”. Videocassette. MGM/UA Home Video.
Giannetti, L. (2010). Understanding Movies (12th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn &Bacon, Incorporated.