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Gabriel de Gravone
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
There are not many filmed biographies dedicated to the Music master of all times, the latest being "Beethoven in Love" (which is Hollywoodiana at its worst).
In Abel Gance's version, "Un Grand Amour de Beethoven", not only do we find some of the best French actors of an Era long gone, but we have a true effort at character study.
Like in the Austrian movie, which nowadays is practically unavailable, called "Eroica", another excellent example of a screen translation of the man's life, "Un Grand Amour..." is a fair attempt at giving us Beethoven, the man, not the lover, not just the composer, but a man in his time.
In this one, somebody may still ask himself if Beethoven's love went to women, to a particular woman, or to a simple and probably more logic choice, to his music. But there is more. The man's interior struggles are shown.
In a time period in which Revolutionary thinking seemed to permeate society, Beethoven comes through as the German "revolutionary" composer he was.
Beethoven craved for human love like any other human being, but in the end, as the realist he was, and viewed the handicap he was facing, deafness, he concentrated totally and exclusively to his music.
In this movie, one can see that struggle for love, but instead of being a defeat to Beethoven (as in the above mentioned trashy movie), the man turns it into a triumph over the senses and brings himself, as well as his own music to an apotheosis never since equaled by any other composer. Abel Gance seems to have understood this and respecting the genius of another master of the artistic trade, delivers a very touching account of the master's life.
The only downside to this effort is the poor technology filmmakers had in those days. At times the sound is dreadful and some conversations can only be understood by reading the subtitles (mind you, I speak French fluently, but I still could not understand some passages).
The music is hauntingly beautiful, but lacks depth and roundness. Poor Abel Gance, he must have struggled hard to finance this project. Despite these flaws, this is, together with "Eroica" (if one can find it), the only true effort made, at bringing the great master back to life.
Being a theatrical director and an actor myself, I am still hoping to be able to, one day, put together some music historians, a dignified cast and crew and start what I always wanted in my childhood: film the entire life of Ludwig van Beethoven, according to his own letter exchange and the biographies of his closest friends and admirers.
Beethoven needs and deserves a faithful reconstruction of his life, told to generations to come. He was more than just a musical genius. He was a highly controversial historical, philosophical and revolutionary/reactionary figure.
Abel Gance's effort is just a tiny cut in Beethoven's life and by reducing it into a two hour effort, he just partially managed to expose the man behind the composer, turning it naturally, as one would expect from a master such as he was and still is, into a masterpiece.
And yet, it is still lacking amplitude. Nevertheless, this movie is a must for every Beethoven fan, if not of master Abel Gance.
Let's hope to find soon a larger and better product than "Bethoveen in love".
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