IMMORTAL BELOVED is the reputedly true story of Ludwig van
Beethoven. The degree to which they stretched the truth for dramatic
purposes, I have no idea since I know only of Beethoven 's music and
little of his life other than he was deaf at the end. For some reason,
the script's plausibility never bothered me, and I took the movie
totally on face value.
IMMORTAL BELOVED is told as a mystery, but actually the mystery is
more of a ruse to be able to tell the story of Beethoven's life in a
fresh way. The mystery is that when he died he left all of his estate
to "his immortal beloved", but no one knew who that was. His secretary
(Jeroen Krabbe) decides to dedicate his life to finding out who she
was. The movie then tells Beethoven's life in flashback from his
severe beatings as a child to his death after composing his ninth
We find many amazing things about his life. He was the Mick
Jagger of his time! His music turned his female fans (Isabella
Rosselini, Johanna Ter Steege, Valeria Golino, and others) into
ecstasy, and he had many lovers, groupies if you will. He was
considered something of a villain by their fathers.
Moreover, Beethoven (Gary Oldman) we find was a crude, mean,
vicious, angry, and extremely obnoxious person. The movie seems to say
that although he is terrible to everyone around him, this is because he
was a victim of child abuse and deafness. There are periodic
statements that he is a good person inside and that people are just not
able to see that part of him. Perhaps.
I am not a big fan of Gary Oldman. I found his SID AND NANCY
repulsive in the extreme. He has done some acting I like, but his
specialty is playing despicable characters (he was Lee Harvey Oswald in
JFK). The minor character parts of the movie played by Steege and
Golino I found I enjoyed the most.
Now, unless you are an historian, comes the only real reason to
see movie--the music. The show opens with a piano sonata and ends
with an amazing set of images while playing the Ode to Joy part of
Beethoven's last symphony. What do you think of when you hear his
choral symphony? I sure never thought of what they did, yet it worked
wonderfully well. The music is all directed by Sir. Georg Solti and
I have to mention the art decoration as another outstanding part.
You are transported to 18th century Vienna, and it feels so real you
think you are in a time machine. Actually, the credits show it was
filmed in Prague, but hey, save a few bucks wherever you can I suppose.
What is wrong with the show? The script is pretty outlandish and
tries to cover way too much material. The editing is too choppy.
Finally, I just did not buy Oldman as Beethoven. I thought he was
miscast and he certainly overacted.
It does seem like producers feel they can only make movies about
composers if they show them as bizarre and quirky individuals. I think
back to the only movie about by far and away my favorite composer -
Gustav Mahler. It was called simply MAHLER. It was directed by Ken
Russell, and he has Mahler hallucinating about death and Nazis and has
him seeing his wife dancing on his grave in jackboots to the tune of
one of Mahler's greatest symphonies. Sure.
The movie runs too long at 2:03, but if they felt that they had to
cover as much ground as they attempted, then it should have been a 3 or
4 hour movie. The movie is correctly rated R for the beating of one
small child and the death of another, for rape, murder, blood, and a
little nudity. [Actually, the show featured some very effective
kissing.] I think older teenagers could see it though since it does
present the items above in a non-exploitive fashion. If you are a
lover of classical music, then you will probably enjoy yourself as I
did; otherwise, I would say skip it. I give it a very mild thumbs up
overall, and I award it **.
Copyright © 1995 Steve Rhodes