Friday, July 22, 2011

Immortal Beloved Review

It is always difficult dealing with a mystery that has plagued the academic community for years. When one is... not actually an academic, it most likely necessarily follows that the answer to that mystery is going to be a) academically unfounded and b) a little bizarre. However, to give credit where credit is due, the director a) brilliantly picked Gary Oldman to play Beethoven, b) did an extremely good, if sometimes overtly violent job at matching images to Beethoven's music, c) has a beautiful first act where one of Beethoven's potential Immortal Beloveds falls in love with him and realizes that he is deaf, and d) cast Gary Oldman in a cravat role.

Take a look, Gentle Readers:

The director performed a service to humanity with that bit of casting. The Amateur Historian, at least, personally feels that her life was better for seeing Gary Oldman storm about Romantically in period costume.

The plot is relatively simple. After Beethoven's dramatic death in the middle of a thunderstorm, underscored by the beginnings of his 5th Symphony, his biographer, Anton Schindler (actually Beethoven's first biographer, so good job movie) finds three letters addressed to Beethoven's Immortal Beloved. This leads Schindler on a quest throughout Austria and through the flashbacks of the candidates for the title of Immortal Beloved. It is a very different and ingenious way to explore the tumultuous life of a great composer, and, to the movie's credit and certainly to Mr. Oldman's, Beethoven is presented precisely as he was in life: passionate, paranoid, tumultuous, brilliant and completely over-the-top. Whether it's music or life, Beethoven must HAVE IT ALL and he must HAVE IT HIS WAY OR HE WILL BREAK SOMETHING.

However, like Beethoven, the movie is not without its flaws. It is extremely bloody-- a trait which will perhaps recommend it to certain Gentle Readers, but not to the Amateur Historian-- and the third act of the film is an incredible disappointment. When the dramatic denouement, underscored with Beethoven's own music and the apparently requisite thunderstorm, unfurls, the end is somewhat inexplicable and disappointing. For no easily discernible reason, Beethoven's Immortal Beloved agrees to meet Beethoven in a hotel, where he will presumably propose, but then she leaves the hotel and then marries someone else, leaving Beethoven to hurl chairs about in rage.

Jeez, Immortal Beloved, I know your boyfriend has hearing problems, but you should have just invested in a fan.

Bref, the movie is not without its merits, though it fails to live up to the high standard it set for itself in its first act, where Beethoven's loss of hearing is handled with such beautiful artistic delicacy. For the romance novelists out there, the first act is also very helpful in terms of very late 18th century undergarments, as there is a surprising amount of nudity, dressing and undressing that occurs. However, the ending does not make very much sense once the film is over and the final moment of beauty, where Beethoven's Ode to Joy is playing in the background as Beethoven, as a young boy, lays in a lake reflecting the stars and the camera pans back to see the entire Milky Way, is eclipsed by the randomness of the script's solution. Immortal Beloved, you are not who all the actual scholars say you are.

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