Thursday, April 7, 2011

Genius And Mediocrity

If you have never seen Amadeus you owe it to yourself to see this film. I recall seeing it in the theatres (dragged against my will) and was thankful for it.

This is the penultimate scene, in which Salieri, dying Mozart's mediocre rival, acts as copyist, as Mozart completes what amounts to his own Requiem.



While many will frame this movie simply as the conflict between genius and envious mediocrity, I believe Amadeus is really about the sin of pride, the most serious of the seven deadly sins. Salieri, even at the end of his life, cannot admit his sin to the priest attending to him.

Go rent Amadeus this weekend, or watch it on Netflix if it is available there.

13 comments:

crazyred said...

Yes. I think about this film often, and this particular scene just yesterday while driving to work.

A Paladin In Citadel said...

When you watch it next time, re-frame your perspective: it is the voice of God speaking to Salieri, when Mozart asks Salieri to forgive him. It's really God apologizing, saying "please forgive me, I did not think you liked my work". It will make you see Amadeus in a whole new light.

Amadeus - Loved by God (Mozart) and God's Love (God loved Salieri so he sent Mozart to Salieri for them to collaborate)

Akrasia said...

It is a great film!

But it's failing is to treat Salieri's envy as legitimate.

Salieri had no reason to envy Mozart (and we have no reason to sympathize with his envy) -- except if one believes in a God who distributes innate talents according to some arbitrary standard (and what standard could that be, if God creates everything?).

But yes, a brilliant film!

Stuart said...

Now I need to see this movie again. :)

James Maliszewski said...

Amadeus may very well be my favorite movie, for exactly the reasons you discuss here.

Carter Soles said...

See also Bob Odenkirk and David Cross' humorous take on Amadeus, found on Mr. Show Season 3 Episode 7.

Timeshadows said...

Interesting view.

I didn't find Mozart very sympathetic, and certainly not a Messianic stand-in. What I love about the film is the machinations of sin and its eventual incapability (G-d's hardening of the heart of the recalcitrant, like Pharaoh who became unable to repent; 'and those that are filthy, let filthy be') where Salieri is so consumed with his sin that like Lucifer, cannot see that he is not himself the Divine Authority. Thus, his absolution of the priest who sought to relieve Salieri of the burden of his 'perceived' sin.


@APiC: Why would G-d ever apologise? His only form of 'repentence' is to rue the day that mankind was created for the fact that the Flood was to wipe out so many that His breath indwelt.
--Is the concept of G-d asking forgiveness a Mormon one? I ask because I am certain that nowhere in Hebrew Canon nor the Messianic Writings does the Most High ever commit a false step that should require His being forgiven, and certainly not by humanity.

JB said...

I think I might rename my blog to "Genius and Mediocrity."

I've watched this movie about a gazillion times. Love it.
: )

Tequila Sunrise said...

Amadeus is not only an old favorite of mine, but it's also how I know how to pronounce Asmodeus. Looove Mozart's death scene!

I heard the book is a lot more vulgar than the movie, and probably the pinnacle of raciness for its time.

Akrasia said...

Hmm... Now that I'm more awake, I see that my comment came across as quite anti-theistic. That was not my intention. Sorry.

Even if one does believe in God, one should not sympathize with Salieri's bitterness towards Mozart, as I've always thought the film encourages us to do, as it is a mistake to conceive of God in this way (as a capricious distributor of natural talents).

But perhaps my criticism is based on a misunderstanding, namely, that we (the audience) are supposed to identify with and sympathize (at least to some extent) with Salieri. Your way of understanding the film seems more promising.

steelcaress said...

Definitely must see this movie again, this time with Doral's slant in mind.

A Paladin In Citadel said...

Timeshadows said...
@APiC: Why would G-d ever apologise? His only form of 'repentence' is to rue the day that mankind was created for the fact that the Flood was to wipe out so many that His breath indwelt. Is the concept of G-d asking forgiveness a Mormon one? I ask because I am certain that nowhere in Hebrew Canon nor the Messianic Writings does the Most High ever commit a false step that should require His being forgiven, and certainly not by humanity.

I've never considered that my "unique" religious views could be coloring my interpretation of this film.

If you pay attention to some of the critical scenes in Amadeus, you will hear, several times, that Salieri considers God to be speaking through Mozart. Just one example:

Salieri: On the page it looked ... nothing! Just a pulse. Bassoons, basset horns; like a rusty squeezebox. And then suddenly, high above it, an oboe. A single note, hanging there, unwavering. Until, finally, a clarinet took it over, and sweetened it into a phrase of such delight! This was no composition by a performing monkey. This was a music I had never heard before. Filled with such longing; such unfulfillable longing. It seemed to me I was hearing the voice of God. But why! Why would God choose an obcene child to be his instrument?

I could probably write a 5000 word essay arguing that God was speaking through Mozart.

Based on God speaking through Mozart, Mozart is just the copyist for God, in the same way that Salieri is the copyist for Mozart. Watch the above scene again. It is only when Salieri humbles himself before Mozart by acting as his copyist (just like Man must humble himself before God), that Salieri finally hears the divine music himself.

As for God "apologizing", I know it is orthodox, in the Judaic and Catholic traditions, to see God as unchanging, all-knowing, perfect, and so on. Perhaps the Mormon doctrine of eternal progression is clouding my interpretation of this film.

But i'm not saying that God is literally apologizing to Salieri. I'm saying God is apologizing to mankind, for thinking that mankind does not like God, or the works that He has created.

Mozart [God]: I'm so ashamed. I was foolish. I thought you did not care for me, or my work. Forgive me. Forgive me.

Seen in that light, the priest's despair at the end of the film is not the despair over Salieri's murder of Mozart, but Man's murder of God.

Anyway, that's a very brief explanation of my interpretation of this film.

Timeshadows said...

"I'm saying God is apologizing to mankind, for thinking that mankind does not like God, or the works that He has created."

"Perhaps the Mormon doctrine of eternal progression is clouding my interpretation of this film."

I see.
--Thank you for your response. One learns something new every day. :)

Best,