At the end of Amadeus I sat still in my chair, dumbfounded.
I asked myself, what is the appropriate length of time for existential meditation? How long are we allowed to contemplate the meaning of life? How can a film possibly examine the gamut of humanity in ninety minutes? An hour? Two hours? Three hours?… Then there is Amadeus.
That in three hours this film compresses millennia of the human condition without missing a beat is extraordinary. There is nothing like a work of art or artistes at the height of their powers. Milos Forman’s direction of this film is sublime. The scenes are masterstrokes of realism; the pacing, the staging. And F. Murray Abraham – dynamite! Not since Daniel Day Lewis in There Will Be Blood have I seen a character so fully formed. He inhabits the bitter old man (in make up!) just as brilliantly as he plays the pious musician with the grace and trajectory of a fallen angel. But I feel (and I say this with some bias) that you credit, too, must go to Peter Shaffer. That Amadeus is his magnum opus. That (and this is strictly my personal opinion) to write this film required something of his life force because genius can only be drawn from an eternally unknowable place.
Genius is the film’s primary subject. What does it mean to desire genius, to possess genius, to behold genius, to appreciate genius, to covert genius and to destroy genius? What is genius to the world? What is genius worth? How far can genius, alone, go? Amadeus benefits from being a work of art from three sphere of genius: music, literary and cinematic. It is a testament to Shaffer’s ability, or genius, that every scene of this film feels entirely necessary, utterly indispensable, like Mozart said, if he were to remove one sound the entire piece would fall apart. We should advocate the creation of a Writer’s Cut.
Strangely, it comes full circle with Liberal Arts. The music. That the music, first, then the letters connect the dots between the two characters. Music, I am afraid, is, on some level, the most superior because of its primeval and sensory accessibility.
I was moved and saddened that I didn’t watch Liberal Arts when it came out, couldn’t write a review or something.
Liberal Arts is the rare film on the kind of men of selective morality. Men scorned by society? The world? For being conflicted in the idealism and realism. Men who believe, despite all evidence to the contrary, or should I say willingness of nubile teenagers, that certain things are scared. Men who will pursue fantasies only to see them disillusioned by reality.
It was a sweet film. It raises difficult questions. Liberal Arts and Amadeus are or, or may very well be the story of our lives: Are we geniuses? Or are we the chroniclers of geniuses? Are we advanced? Or are we stunted?
Whatever the case maybe there are still wonders in cinema and I am glad we can share them—via email, perhaps, like the characters in Liberal Arts—and in euphoric agony.