Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Born - Jan 27, 1756   |   Died - Dec 5, 1791   |   Genres - Music, Travel, Theater

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Biography by AllMovie

Perhaps the classical composer most quoted in film soundtracks, Mozart's music has appeared in approximately 310 feature films. Many of this Austrian composer's operas have received full film and television productions including Die Entführung aus dem Serail (The Abduction From the Seraglio) in five complete productions and the theme for TV's Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego?, and Così Fan Tutte (All Women Do So) with nine productions and quoted in Propellerblume (The Whirligig,1997). Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute) has had ten European and American television presentations, and was quoted in 11 films including Miss Congeniality (2000), Face/Off (1997), Parting Glances (1986), and Letter From an Unknown Woman (1948). Don Giovanni has had 15 full productions with excerpts appearing in romantic drama contexts including La Cérémonie (1995), Jalousie (1991), Babette's Feast (1988), Parting Glances, and the wonderfully titled Tense Moments From Opera (1922). Il Nozzi de Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro) can be found in 13 complete productions and also appears in various filmic variations in The Adventures of Pinocchio (1996), The Shawshank Redemption (1994), So This Is Love (1953), and Under Your Spell (1936).

In Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut (1999), after seemingly being followed by a mysterious man (or perhaps only walking in the same direction), Tom Cruise's Dr. Hartford character (called Fridolin in Schnitzler's Traumnovelle) enters a coffeehouse in which Mozart's Requiem plays quietly in the background. It makes a strange juxtaposition to the comfortable Christmas season warmness of the patrons who seem content to let it be just some classical music wallpaper. Cruise picks up the newspaper and reads about an ex-beauty queen found dead of an overdose, who may be the masked prostitute who saved him the previous night when he was exposed as an intruder at a gathering of a high-society religio-sex cult. The Mozart piece, which has functioned as a subtle form of presaging, is interrupted by the stark punctuations of a Ligeti piano work as the camera focuses on the news headlines. Like colors, bits of dialogue, and certain store signs throughout the film, this music is among the subliminal, encoded elements that create another level of meaningful associations just below the surface story. The Requiem is also heard in Elizabeth (1998), The Big Lebowski (1998), Primal Fear (1996), The Mother and the Whore (1973), and many other films.

The most quoted of Mozart's instrumental music is Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (A Little Night Music), heard in nine films including Anne Frank (2001), Sophie's Choice (1982), Alien (1979), and Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975). Elvira Madigan (1967) used the composer's Piano Concerto No. 21, which became quite popular. Other piano concerti occur in movies such as Chain of Command (2000), My Big Fat Father (1992), Out of Africa (1985), and Incompreso (1966). The string quartets and divertimenti have also been widely used.

Movies about the composer's life have included Mozart -- Aufzeichnungen Einer Jugend (Mozart -- Records of a Young Man, 1976), Das Leben Mozarts (The Life of Mozart, 1967), The Life and Loves of Mozart (1955), Unsterblicher Mozart (Immortal Mozart, 1954), and The Mozart Story (1948). But the one that best captures the spirit of the composer, if not always the historical letter, is Milos Forman's production of Peter Shaffer's Amadeus (1984), winner of eight Academy awards, with Tom Hulce as an exuberant, ribaldly amorous, soul-searching, natural non-conformist, and charmingly naïve genius.