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Vienna, 1824. In the days before the first performance of the Ninth Symphony, Beethoven needs help with copying out the charts, so a promising student of composition, Anna Holtz, 23, is sent to assist him. She not only aids the transcription of the notes, she provides guidance from the orchestra pit as Beethoven conducts the work's debut. During the next two years, the final ones of Beethoven's life, Anna provides assistance to the deaf, temperamental, ailing man. In return, he tutors her in composition and explains to her the ideas and principles of Romanticism. He tries to speak for God. Written by
The film depicts Beethoven conducting the premier of his Ninth Symphony with Anna's help and at the end her turning him around at the podium to see the thunderous applause. In reality, Michael Umlauf conducted and although Beethoven was on stage keeping tempo, the orchestra had been told to ignore him. At the end of the performance it was one of the soloists, Caroline Unger, who turned him around to see the enthusiastic applause of the audience. See more »
And parts of it I loved. The casting of Ed Harris in the role of Beethoven was a stroke of genius in itself and like Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ed inhabits every role he's in, extraordinary actors both, without mannerisms or methodisms. He just is. It is a serious misfortune that the script fell far short of his talent.
Diane Kruger for the most part is luminous and believable, I don't know if the picture was filmed sequentially, but in the beginning she appears to be struggling to find her feet, to roll herself into the part, and after a few wobbles, she eventually does.
The interpretation of the Ninth is sublime on many levels, the main one being the absolute sensuousness of Anna Holtz (played by Diane) guiding the maestro through the conducting of the Ninth at its debut. Right up there with memorable movie moments.
The main difficulties I had were with the depiction of Beethoven's hearing (he was totally deaf when he wrote the sublime Ninth) and with the anachronistic dialogue which had me "ouching" far too much. Using terms like "mooning", Beethoven himself no less christening his own Moonlight Sonata - spare us, American accents slopping around, a single woman completely chaperonless running freely around Vienna and on and of course the passionate kissing scenes with her kinda-fiancé, I think not.
As to the "Wash Me" scene, I got it (I think). He was composing in synch to her washing motions. More could have been made of it.
I understand why the director, Agnieszka Holland, would develop the story to highlight and Mozartize Beethoven, but I would have to say the experiment was a failure.
Evocative lighting but a sad little script which seriously under estimated this viewer's intelligence and I believe I'm not alone. 7 out of 10 for the bits that worked.
For a lovely little movie depicting the just about demented from deafness Beethoven composing his Ninth, see the delightful "Beethoven Lives Upstairs."
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