In 1984, Saul Zaentz, Peter Shaffer and Milos Forman collaborated in bringing a truly remarkable life to the silver screen. The story of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, through the eyes of rival composer, Antonio Salieri. The film is complete with an insightful script, magnificent acting, wondrous sets and costume designs, incredible choreography, and, above all, the glorious music of Mozart himself.
The movie of Salieri's life, through which Mozart played an integral part, is told in flashback mode, beginning in around the year 1822. An old and perhaps emotionally disturbed Antonio Salieri attempts suicide, and in doing so, apologizes for killing Mozart some 31 years earlier. He survives and is admitted to an insane asylum, where he tells a young priest his tale of jealousy and mediocrity.
The priest is fascinated and alternately troubled by the lengthy and emotional story. Salieri tells of growing up in Italy with a father who did not care for music; and how he rejoiced for the chance to go to Vienna after his father's untimely death. He tells of how he first had met the young Mozart, and how immature and dirty minded Mozart was. He also tells of how "The Creature" had an intimate relationship with the girl that Salieri had cared for. Most importantly, however, he confided in the priest that he had learned to hate God for giving him a deep love of music, only to deny him the talent to create truly memorable music. He thought God had given him Mozart to mock him. Salieri's heart filled with such rage, such hatred and such jealousy, that he had vowed to himself to make God an enemy and to kill the young Mozart.
As the movie moves along, carrying with it a deep sadness of the human condition, it also celebrates life by giving the audience joyous music, wonderful atmosphere and a general appreciation of humanity for not only eighteenth century Europe, but in any age where music speaks for our emotions.
The movie won eight Academy Awards in March of 1985. The only reason it did not win nine was that Tom Hulce was nominated for best actor instead of best supporting actor. He actually was in a supporting role, and in a strange twist of irony, F. Murray Abraham won the best actor statuette; citing probably the only time when Salieri beat out Mozart in anything.
The movie itself was shot in Prague where Milos Forman said "It is a gem because it's possible to pivot the camera a full three hundred and sixty degrees and never encounter a modern vision." Very few new sets had to be built, as the scenes and buildings they found were quite often apropos to their needs.
Amadeus works well on virtually every cinematic plane that exists. It is a masterpiece that must be viewed multiple times to receive what the film has to offer. The emotions of humanity, through the eyes of the troubled Salieri, indeed speak for all of mediocrity. He is their champion and their king.