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Immortal Beloved

movie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Immortal Beloved

Starring: Gary Oldman, Isabella Rossellini
Director: Bernard Rose
Rated: R
RunTime: 121 Minutes
Release Date: January 1995
Genres: Drama, Romance, Music

*Also starring: Valeria Golino, Jeroen Krabbe, Marco Hofschneider, Johanna Ter Steege, Miriam Margolyes, Barry Humphries, Gerard Horan, Michael Culkin

Review by Steve Rhodes
2 stars out of 4

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 symphony.

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 is beautiful.

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

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