Amadeus is the story of two creative geniuses whose overlapping passions forge one of the most interesting and engrossing cinematic rivalries I’ve ever seen – not a result of circumstance or even history, but rather the work of F. Murray Abraham’s Antonio Salieri and Tom Hulce’s Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Above all, I adore the two leads. Hulce as Mozart – his eccentricities (that laugh!), his kind nature, and those surface flaws that have become a cliché for creative types (real and fictional) the world over. At his side, but quite apart is Abraham’s Salieri – a driven but bitter man who could embody any one of us when met with a superior mind.
The film couldn’t stand on their individual performances alone. It is remarkable, then, that they share so little one-on-one screen time, and yet their rivalry (one sided though it is) is fully realised in a 150 minute film. Both swing between relatable and irritating, always polar opposites of one another – worthy adversaries who are unknowingly fighting for me to take sides.
This rivalry, and the back and forth it provoked in my allegiance as a viewer, kept me absolutely invested in a film that, despite its ambition, soundtrack and grandiosity, probably shouldn’t be as straight up entertaining as it is. But it is wonderful, humbling and sorrowful that there should ever be a rivalry like that between peers. And I loved it because it’s about creativity: the story of a great composer, and another, greater composer.