1801, in Vienna, two young women, his pupils, are in love with him. Thérèse de Brunswick's love remains unrequited even though she and Beethoven are engaged for years; Juliette Guicciardi, whom Beethoven loves but who marries a count, regrets that decision, but by then he and Thérèse are engaged. When Beethoven loses Juliette, he moves to the mill at Heiligenstadt; realizing he's becoming deaf, profound depression sets in. He rejects suicide, holding on to remembered sound and to his work, a dedication assisted by Thérèse and others. In later years, we see his devotion to an ungrateful and thieving nephew, his poverty, the isolation of deafness, and the love of friends. Written by
Practically unwatchable and sloppy--particularly the English captioned version
How can the director who produced film classics like NAPOLEON and J'ACCUSE have produced such a shoddy film?! I was totally surprised to find this one of the most tedious films I have seen in some time and I have to admit at the outset that I couldn't force myself to see the entire film. Read on a see why.
The film begins with a dying kid and a crying mother in a room. A guy who doesn't particularly look like Beethoven (and has remarkably good hearing) is apparently Beethoven and he begins playing an orchestral piece by himself just using a piano! Yes, you can hear flutes, violins and countless other instruments all coming from the piano like some sort of crappy music video from the 1960s. While I was surprised by this, I was even more surprised when just moments later the same type thing happened again as Beethoven's lady love was doing the exact same thing herself--this time outside with a group of friends at her own piano. Considering she, too, had this amazing talent, I could see why Beethoven loved her so (this is sarcasm, by the way--just wanted to let you know). The film doesn't get much better after this and really doesn't seem much like the real life story of Beethoven. In this Bizarro World version of his life, his landlords LOVE him (even though in reality he got evicted dozens of times because his music at all hours alienated him from all his landlords).
To make things worse, the English captioning is among the worst I've ever seen. Often long comments in French are either NOT translated or just summarized. While I am not exactly fluent in the language, at times I did much better ignoring the captions and just trying to decipher what they were saying myself. I cannot blame Gance for this, but put the blame squarely on the shoulders of the hacks who later did the captioning.
The bottom line is this is NOT Beethoven's life nor is it particularly well-made nor is it compelling. There are other less boring and better made bio-pics. Skip it and look for another French film--there are so many better. For example, at the same time period that this film was made, the films of Marcel Pagnol were absolutely brilliant.
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