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Ludwig van Beethoven was one of the greatest composers-- some would say THE greatest-- in the history of the world. But what of the man himself? His passions, his loves? The humanness behind the genius? `Immortal Beloved,' written and directed by Bernard Rose, examines the man behind the music in a dramatization focusing on the mystery behind a letter-- written by Beethoven-- found among his effects after his death in 1827. The letter bears no name or address, but was written to a woman to whom he refers as his `immortal beloved,' with nary a clue as to her identity. But in his final will, it is she to whom he bequeaths his estate, and it therefore falls to Beethoven's secretary, Anton Schindler (Jeroen Krabbe), to unravel the mystery and discover her identity. And as Schindler pursues his quest, a portrait of Beethoven, in his most human aspect, emerges. Reminiscent of the approach taken by Orson Welles with `Citizen Kane,' Rose presents a riveting study of the enigmatic genius that was Beethoven. He suggests a man driven by passion and ego, who was under appreciated during his lifetime (as great artists often are), and who grew bitter in the wake of the slings and arrows fate so surreptitiously hurled at him. The great irony of his life, of course, was the deafness that deprived him of the aural beauty of his own creation, an affliction Rose implies was brought about through the brutality of a drunken father who would beat his son about the head and ears (And in retrospect, what a testimony to his genius, that he could write such music in his head without ever hearing an actual note). As Beethoven, Gary Oldman gives an outstanding performance, one for which he should have received acclaim that somehow was never forthcoming. His ability to create a total character, with such incredible emotional depth as he does here, is astounding. It's puzzling as to why so many of his performances are overlooked, especially at Oscar time. Besides this film, consider his work in `Sid and Nancy,' or more recently in `The Contender.' He is simply a tremendous actor who has yet to have his day in the sun. As Beethoven, he so completely immerses himself in the character that his soul is veritably reflected in his eyes. You feel the silent world in which he was confined for most of his life, and it allows you to identify with the inner turmoil with which he had to cope and endure without respite. Most importantly, Oldman makes you feel that unabashed passion that motivated and drove Beethoven on. It's quite simply a remarkable performance. Turning in notable performances as well are Isabella Rossellini, as Anna Marie Erdody, one of the women in Beethoven's life who may or may not have been the one to whom the letter was intended, and Johanna ter Steege, as Johanna, Beethoven's sister-in-law and the mother of his beloved nephew, Karl (Marco Hofschneider). The supporting cast includes Miriam Margolyes (Nanette), Barry Humphries (Clemens), Valeria Golino (Giulietta), Gerard Horan (Nikolaus), Christopher Fulford (Casper), Alexandra Pigg (Therese) and Luigi Diberti (Franz). Beethoven's renown today, of course, exceeds even mythological proportions, which often facilitates the blending of fiction with fact. But with `Immortal Beloved,' whether or not the finer points are historically accurate or not is of little consequence, for at it's heart this is a love story that is engrossing drama that is altogether transporting. It's a memorable film, highlighted by Oldman's performance and, of course, the music. And there are a number of scenes, as well, that are unforgettable and demand mention. One depicting the debut performance of the `Ode to Joy,' and another in which the young Beethoven (played by Leo Faulkner) runs at night through the streets of the city to escape his drunken father (Fintan McKeown), coming at last to a lake, into which he wades to float on his back; and with the camera positioned directly above, looking down upon him, a billion stars are reflected in the water around him. Then slowly the camera pulls back until the young Ludwig blends with the reflected stars to seemingly take his place among all the brightest lights of the firmament. It's a scene that will leave you breathless and remain etched in your memory forever. And it's but one of the more astounding moments from an astounding motion picture that absolutely must not be missed. I rate this one 10/10.
Once again, a film of such glory fell on deaf ears - no pun
intended - in this country.
I have spent hours reading reviews on this film, stating
awful it was, because it was not true to the real Beethoven's
Well, I believe that early on in my life, I learned about
thing called "Poetic License"....and, in fact, this film
basically, a poem.
The movie is BASED on a letter that Beethoven actually DID write, to his
mystery lover. No one knows, for sure, who the
woman really was. And, this is simply a beautiful interpretation of
someone's dream of who she COULD'VE been.
This was regarded as an AWFUL thing to do, by many Beethoven authorities - and by people who simply DOUBTED.
Yet, what went overlooked because of these critics' lack of open-mindedness - was an exquisite blend of glorious music, and SUPREME acting.
Once again, Mr. Oldman gave a performance like no other actor in the world can quite match. His style, sensitivity, and
genius as the Tragic Beethoven, was magnificent.
Jeroen Krabbe's portrayal of Anton Schindler, Beethoven's friend and champion - was marvelous.
Johanna ter Steege - who portrayed Johanna, Beethoven's sister- in-law - was exquisite. Why did they ignore HER? It would've been nice to have her stay here, rather than return to her Dutch homeland - to become a major motion picture star, as well. She had one special attribute - she could ACT.
The sets, costuming, sound, and editing were all BEAUTIFUL. But the film was ignored.
Above all, however, Gary Oldman's performance ranked among the best in the world - but it, too, was ignored.
Give the film another chance. It deserves FAR more than it GOT. It was, simply, beautiful...
Aspect ratio: 2.39:1 (Panavision)
Sound formats: Dolby Digital / SDDS-8
Following Beethoven's death, his closest friend (Jeroen Krabbé) goes in search of the composer's sole heir, an unnamed woman described as his 'immortal beloved' in a letter which betrays their secret love affair.
Comparisons with AMADEUS (1984) are inevitable, but Bernard Rose's sumptuous biopic is in a veritable league of its own. The director's episodic screenplay relays events in flashback, as Beethoven - played with multilayered conviction by Gary Oldman - is inspired to new heights of artistic endeavor by the three women who dominate his life (Isabella Rosselini, Valeria Golino and Johanna ter Steege), and rendered increasingly bitter by encroaching deafness. Just as tellingly, Rose's handsome film details Beethoven's stormy relationship with a favored nephew (Marco Hofschneider), who was driven to extreme rebellion by the composer's overreaching ambitions. The music is arranged with exquisite grace by Georg Solti, conducting the London Symphony Orchestra: Standout episodes include the moment when Beethoven first plays the 'Moonlight Sonata', and the breathtaking 'Ode to Joy' sequence, framed against an unhappy memory from Beethoven's youth, which culminates in a moment of supreme cinematic glory, one of the most beautiful images this reviewer has ever seen. Vivid production design by Jirí Hlupý, expansive scope photography by Peter Suschitzky; filmed on location in Prague.
This is one of my all-time favorite movies! I thought the music was well done, and I don't understand the criticisms I've read in this forum at all. The central idea of the movie is just one man's theory of who the "immortal beloved" was. No one knows who it actually was, and most theories I've read disagree with the film. No matter! I thought the premise was interesting, whether or not is was true. What was factual is that Beethoven WAS grouchy (wouldn't you be if you couldn't hear but music was your passion, your life??), and that he had digestive problems. Also factual was that he won custody of his nephew, Karl, and that his relationship with his brother's wife was antagonistic. The other people (countess Erdody, Schindler, etc) were factual people...of course any script written would have to put words in their mouths...big deal. I guess some people just are passionate about what their idea of the truth is (even though NO ONE KNOWS in this case) that they are blinded to the rest. The director is a Beethoven fanatic, and I found this movie to be a loving portrayal. Gary Oldman was absolutely fantastic! He learned to play the piano (spent months doing it) in order to be authentic. Thumbs WAY up on this one.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
'Immortal Beloved' opens with Beethoven's death, followed by his
funeral attended by the mourning masses...
Beethoven's final will and testament are found by the composer's mentor, Anton Felix Schindler (Jeroen Krabbé) who reads that all of Beethoven's music and fortune shall go to his sole heir, his secret passion, his immortal beloved...
No one then, or now, knows who the 'immortal beloved' is...
Director Bernard Rose decided it might be interesting to take a guess... So he framed his film in a puzzled story with Beethoven's confidante searching across Europe for clues...
Determined not to rest until he discovers the maestro's greatest love, Schindler travels to see several ladies in an attempt to learn the identity of the woman who meant so much to Ludwig van Beethoven...
Along the way, he meets with three candidates: Giulietta Guicciardi, Beethoven's attractive piano pupil, to whom Ludwig dedicated his 'Moonlight' sonata; Johanna Reiss, Beethoven's immoral sister-in-law, who 'could not hate the man who could write such music;' and Anna Marie Erdödy, the beautiful Hungarian Countess, who opened her heart to the German composer...
All of the mentioned women loved Beethoven, and one of them could certainly be his angel, his all, his other self...
With the use of the Ninth Symphony's "Ode to Joy," there is a beautiful shot of young Ludwig floating in the firmament, lost thereafter between the luminous celestial bodies... Another scene is quite poignant of Beethoven, unaware even that the music had ceased, is also unaware of the tremendous burst of applause that greeted it...
'Immortal Beloved' is a love story which not only captures the ideas of early 19th century romanticism, but ultimately attempts to fasten the emotional state of the music to the events that Beethoven lived through... We are given a look into the composer's personality... Beethoven is seen impatient, impulsive, unreasonable and intolerant; deafness adds suspicion and paranoia to these attributes...
We are invited to watch his treasured feelings... We are even touched by an artist who yearns to express himself creatively through music... He is an hostile, obstinate lover who would fly into a rage at the slightest provocation, but a sensible human being who carries the music in his heart, and whom the thorns of life had wounded so deeply...
Like all pianists of the late 18th century, Beethoven is raised on the sonatas of expressive music at a time when music was regarded as the art of pleasing sounds... The dramatic scene of his 'Moonlight Sonata' communicated to a deafened ear, expresses all his emotional pain: We listen beautifully what he cannot... He reveals, through his delightful piece, his soul and the inner torment he is suffering... We perceive what the music is evoking in his mind... we also find that he is a temperamental lover who seeks to reach the perfect love...
With finesse and style Gary Oldman stars as the first composer, always stubborn, unyielding and struggling against destiny... Oldman seems to feel the brave, the commanding, and the impetuous of the virtuoso pianist more than what is reassuring or gentle... The muscles of his face swell, and its veins start out... His wild eye rolls doubly wild... His mouth trembles as he looks overpowered with the character's deafness, strengthened by a stubborn nature...
Set in Vienna, but exquisitely shot in and around Prague, 'Immortal Beloved' concentrates on Beethoven's women, his cruel battle for custody and control of his little nephew, his constant fight with himself, with the sound of agitation...
'Immortal Beloved' is a film enriched by a passion, drama and turbulence of an era... The scenery of the aristocratic palaces, elegant middle class town houses, churches and chapels, monuments and fountains are beautiful and exquisite... Beethoven's compositions (wonderfully performed by the London Symphony Orchestra) are splendid and voluptuous...
Bernard Rose's superior film about the life of Ludwig van Beethoven
takes as its central premise a mention in the composer's will of an
'immortal beloved', identity unknown. So far, so intriguing.
With the casting of versatile British actor Gary Oldman as Beethoven, there was potential for a lot of depth of character (which we get, as the passage of time convinces throughout as Beethoven moves from skirt-chasing youth to crabby and deaf old age).
Also impressive within the cast are Jeroen Krabbé as Schindler, Johanna ter Steege as Johanna Reiss, and Isabella Rossellini as Anna Marie Erdody. What could have been a stodgy film is buoyed up greatly by their presence, but it is the central performance of Oldman which counts (he really is a peerless performer of real-life characters - Sid Vicious, Joe Orton, Lee Harvey Oswald ...).
My only gripe would be that the music is sometimes given short shrift, but when it is there, it is wonderful. You get the emotional impact in the snatches of sonatas, symphonies and concertos you hear - but it would have been nice to acknowledge that the film was about a creative artist and musician and let us hear a bit more of his work!
Not quite as dramatic as AMADEUS, to which there are
obvious comparisons, it is a powerful film in its own
Taking the mysterious letter which Beethoven wrote to his "Immortal beloved" as the starting point, we follow his secretary's attempt to identify the person to whom the letter is addressed. No one knows, to this day, who that person really is, but the film offers an interesting theory.
The letter, however, is just a device to tell the story of the wild genius who personifies the Romantic movement in art. The letter serves much the same purpose as does Rosebud in CITIZEN KANE -- a method of stringing together a series of flashbacks that reveal the personality of the central figure.
The acting is wonderful and the music is powerful.
On his deathbed, Beethoven, the greatest of all composers, leaves a note to his "Immortal Beloved." Like Citizen Kane's "Rosebud," this becomes a device to see the life of Beethoven through flashbacks. This interesting mixture of fact and fiction provides a portrait of the composer's social life but sheds little light on his genius for writing music. The soundtrack is all Beethoven (except for a little Rossini), as we get to hear bits and pieces of many of his works. The "Ode to Joy" sequence is well done, juxtaposing the premier of the 9th Symphony with flashbacks to Ludwig's childhood. However, the disjointed structure makes for a somewhat unsatisfying experience. Oldman certainly looks like Beethoven and manages to convey the anguish of a man who never heard most of his greatest works due to deafness, the most cruel fate for a composer.
I loved this in the theatre and recently purchased it on video.
Gary Oldman portrays Beethoven with all the warts, near-madness, rage and passion intact. Unlovable almost, except for the sympathy and compassion engendered by his deafness which humanizes him.
The music is wonderful here and tries to explain the emotions behind the man.
The McGuffin of the plot hinges on a letter that was never received by his "immortal beloved". I may have missed something along the way, but how did the narrator of the story get the letter ? That point aside, this is a well done story and captures the era perfectly. I
believe Prague was used for the setting and it is beautiful. This movie could be a matched set to "Beethoven Lives Upstairs" another film which captures his turbulence and frustration and the triumph of his composition of his 9th.
An 8 out of 10 for a very enjoyable movie.
The life of Beethoven was a fascinating one and while Immortal Beloved is not entirely accurate at times, it matters not. The movie merely portrays the music. Its sole purpose, seemingly, is to show the passion of this man via his music. This is the only instance that I can think of where the screenplay and plot were manipulated to fit with the music and not the other way around. Oldman gives an outstanding performance. He evokes passions similar to those conjured by Beethoven's music. He was the perfect choice for the role. I cannot praise this movie enough without sounding like an executive from Columbia Tristar. Watch the movie. Some scenes are simply inspirational.
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