Rock me, Amadeus: Truth-telling in Hollywood’s depiction of Mozart

Posted on: February 27, 2015

“It is 30 years since Amadeus swept the board at the Academy Awards,” writes Clemency Burton-Hill in Wednesday’s (2/24) “Miloš Forman’s 1984 film of Peter Shaffer’s 1979 play took home eight statuettes that night, including best film, best director, best actor and best adapted screenplay. Arguably the finest movie ever made about the process of artistic creation and the unbridgeable gap between human genius and mediocrity, it has taken its place in motion picture history and is invariably described as a masterpiece. All this is despite the fact the film plays shamelessly fast and loose with historical fact, taking as its basis a supposedly bitter rivalry between Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his counterpart Antonio Salieri … that may have been nothing more than a vague rumour. … It was Alexander Pushkin who first seized on the idea that the alleged rivalry between these two Vienna-based composers might make good drama: in 1830 he published a short play called Mozart and Salieri, in which the latter murders the former … for all the academic imperfections of Amadeus, the essence of the film is irrefutable. Salieri was a perfectly reasonable court composer, capable of writing the odd good tune here and there; Mozart was a genius.”

Posted February 27, 2015