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
From the opening heart-wrenching scene that establishes the marriage of Beethoven's compassion with his extraordinary genius, to the transcendent death scene, The Great Love of Beethoven shows how adept Abel Gance could still be after the grandiosity and gimmickry of Napoleon. This film seems to owe much to the Surrealists, to Renoir, and to the Rembrandt biopic starring Charles Laughton, which I believe was a year or 2 before. The romantic nature of the man and how it both conflicted with and intensified his creative genius is at the center of the film, exploring his relationships in the most effective way: through the use of his timeless music. Of course Ludwig's gradual and intermittent deafness is a critical element of any such biography, and is conveyed by Gance brilliantly. In few films has such familiar and beloved music been used to capture the emotional content of the various moods and episodes of the artist's life, from the deepest melancholy to the gaiety of birdsong that Beethoven channels spontaneously to the delight of the children gathered around and the artist himself. Beautiful, sad, honest & important film...
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