the fresh films reviews

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Immortal Beloved (1994)

Bernard Rose
Min udødelige kjærlighet
121 minuted
Bruce Davey
Bernard Rose

Cast includes:

Ludwig van Beethoven Gary Oldman
Anton Felix Schindler Jeroen Krabbé ½
Anna Marie Erdödy Isabella Rossellini
Johanna Reiss Johanna Ter Steege ½
Karl Van Beethoven Marco Hofschneider ½
Kaspar van Beethoven Christopher Fulford
Giulietta Guicciardi Valeria Golino
Young Karl Van Beethoven Matthew North



Seen at face value, with no regard to the historical context, this Bernard Rose film about the latter life of Ludwig van Beethoven is a consummate piece that includes every element and evokes every emotion. It effectively portrays Beethoven's genius, temper, tenderness and spitefulness, it presents some of his finest music in a handful of incredibly emotive scenes (none better than when an almost completely deaf Beethoven is tricked into playing the Moonlight Sonata on a new piano), and it is cleverly built-up as a romance mystery, told from the point of view of his secretary Anton Schindler, who goes looking for the beneficiary of the composer's famous unsent love letter "Immortal Beloved", which was found in his estate after his death. Schindler's investigation takes us from one alleged lover to the next, and along the way he and we learn about Beethoven's tragic decline, culminating in the failed attempt at making his young nephew Karl a famous virtuoso.

Beethoven's life was rich and eventful, and his persona so complex and conflicting that any characterization of him will be both highly interesting and always open to interpretation. In the case of Immortal Beloved, however, historians and biographers don't debate the characterization as such, but rather the conclusions surrounding the aforementioned love letter. For connoisseurs, the uncertainty surrounding Rose's conclusion may well make or break a film like this, and since essentially no other biographer agrees with Rose on these conclusions, they have every right to claim Immortal Beloved as invalid, and thus a failure. Still, that wouldn't do Mr. Gary Oldman justice, because his portrayal of Beethoven is so accomplished and forceful that it brushes aside possible inaccuracies in the plot like dust in the wind. The fact that Tom Hulce was nominated for the Academy Award for his performance as Mozart in Milos Forman's Amadeus (in a fine performance indeed), whereas Oldman was overlooked for this performance, is nothing short of a disgrace. My conclusion is that Beethoven's life, romances and music will continue to be discussed for centuries, but the way Rose and Oldman bring him to life here, with all his defects and greatness, makes this film an invaluable document nonetheless.

Re-reviewed: Copyright © 27.12.2013 Fredrik Gunerius Fevang
Original review:
Copyright © 8.5.1997 Fredrik Gunerius Fevang