Immortal Beloved (1994)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Period Film, Biopic [feature], Musical Drama, Romantic Drama  |   Release Date - Dec 16, 1994 (USA)  |   Run Time - 120 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Karl Williams

An attempt to do for Beethoven what was done for Mozart in Amadeus (1984), this fanciful blend of fact and fiction is a marvelous drama, if lacking in the sumptuous, visual feast qualities of the film it's aping. Rose creates one gorgeous sequence in which a youthful Beethoven escapes an abusive father, flees through the woods, and floats in a pond that reflects the starry night sky above, as the Ode to Joy from the Ninth Symphony blasts over the soundtrack. The rest of the film never quite reaches such heights, but it's properly grounded in the grumbling, wounded performance of Gary Oldman, who not surprisingly captures precisely the right intonations of a self-absorbed, prideful genius (perhaps not much of a stretch for the notoriously difficult actor). Rose's script posits that the composer's behavior was the result of a broken heart, and while scholars may certainly dispute many of his story's claims, the end result is a moving and soulful work, fleetingly ecstatic, and interestingly structured on the template provided by Citizen Kane (1941). If Immortal Beloved runs second to Amadeus on the list of great composer biographies, the margin between the two films is not a wide one by any means.