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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

Reviewer Roundup
1.  Dragan Antulov review follows movie review
2.  Steve Rhodes read the review movie reviewmovie review

Review by Dragan Antulov
1 star out of 4

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) is one of the greatest composers who ever lived, and his work is able to inspire people centuries after his death. At two fine examples of this could be found in the world of cinema - A CLOCKWORK ORANGE and DIE HARD are impossible to imagine without Beethoven's music. The private life of the great composer was perhaps less impressive than his work, but Beethoven's biography was interesting enough to become subject of many films. The latest of those films is IMMORTAL BELOVED, 1994 biopic written and directed by British filmmaker Bernard Rose.

The film begins with Beethoven (played by Gary Oldman) dying in 1827. His young secretary and friend Anton Schindler (played by Jeroen Krabbe) digs through his papers and finds the will in which he leaves everything to the mysterious woman refered only as "Immortal Beloved". Schindler is determined to establish the identity of said woman so he starts travelling all across Europe in search of people who might be the key to this mystery. Among them are Beethoven's past lovers -Giulietta Guicciardi (played by Valeria Golino) and Anna Marie Erdody (played by Isabella Rossellini) - and through their stories Schindler starts to make a picture of a great artist, haunted by childhood traumas, deafness and long-time feuds with his own family, including sister-in-law Johanna Reiss (played by Johanna ter Steege) with whom Beethoven fought for the custody of her young son Karl (played by Marco Hofschneider).

Rose decided to depict Beethoven's life using the story device similar to Welles' CITIZEN KANE - present the character through bits and pieces of other peoples' memory. Unfortunately, the jigsaw puzzle was simply not worthy of the effort - according to Rose, the most important thing about great composer's life was not his music but his love life. Because of that, IMMORTAL BELOVED looks less an ambitious biopic and more like a cheap melodrama. To make things even worse, Rose took too many liberties not only with Beethoven's life, but also with the broader historical events, including Beethoven's infatuation with Napoleon and French invasion of Austria - the events that were as thraumatic to 19th Century Viennese as WTC bombing was to early 21st Century New Yorkers. Because of that, the ending is completely non-cathartic and the whole story is rather unengaging. What saves this film from complete failure are two things. One is the scene that tries to show where and how Beethoven found inspiration for his 9th Symphony. The other is excellent performance by Gary Oldman, who again utilises his raw energy to play a madman, although this time madness manifests itself in art rather than homicidal acts. Unfortunately, Oldman's performance is not matched by his colleagues, and he can't save IMMORTAL BELOVED from ending like a big disappointment.

Copyright 2001 Dragan Antulov

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