In the way that Beethoven himself bridged the classical and romantic periods, the film wants to be a mixture of CITIZEN KANE and AMADEUS, retelling a monumental life through melancholic flashbacks and the mystery of an empty signifier. The idea is a worthwhile one, if much too conventional for its utterly original and avant-garde subject matter—something the movie sorely misunderstands, giving little weight to the specificity of the composer’s genius, tone-deafly treating him merely like a lightening rod for romantic passion—but the execution here is as flat as a second-rate soprano, lacking in the verve or audacity of its models, substituting pathos for authentic artistry. Anton Schindler (played by Jeroen Krabbé), the film’s framing narrator, is too blank to serve as a Salieri, and Beethoven’s string of mistresses too sycophantic to provide the complexity of Kane’s memorializers—the result, ironically enough, is rather monotone and cold.
Note: Listen, I watch more than my fair share of movies. They are as often incredible examples of ideology and political economy as they are works of world-expanding art. At best, they are thought-provoking, and at worst, they are mediocre entertainment (especially when they fall into that uncanny valley of “so awful it’s fun”). Since I generally write up a few quick thoughts for each movie I watch, and in the interest of making public more of my thinking and writing processes, I figured that I might as well post the occasional review to this blog as well as to my Letterboxd/Rotten Tomatoes accounts.