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4.3 out of 5 stars133
4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 8 July 2013
One thing's for sure, this film alone could convert anyone to Beethoven, and in my case it did. I bought it over a year ago and have watched it anywhere between half a dozen and a dozen times. I've literally lost count now. Gary Oldman's performance is as good as you would expect from this world-class actor, he makes Beethoven thoroughly engaging and sympathetic even while revealing him as the arrogant, proud, suspicious and indeed intimidating human being he almost certainly was. His excellent performance here (mostly nuanced with occasional eruptions of his trademark fire) was worthy of at least an Oscar nomination but this was the same year as Forrest Gump dominated the Academy Awards so that just wasn't happening. A shame.

The score is wonderful (all Beethoven's) with the individual pieces being very well selected. His music runs through each scene in so seamless and graceful a way that, after watching it just once or twice, you will always associate the music with certain scenes and images. "Emperor" will always make me think of Johanna Reiss opening the famous 'Immortal Beloved' letter through which Beethoven finally pours out all of his most honest and most romantic feelings. "Emperor", as you may or may not know, is the snappy name for Ludwig's chart-topping hit of the times, (deep breath here) "Adagio un poco moto - III. Rondo. Allegro (excerpt) from Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major, Op.73".

There are many scenes that are very touching and sweet, others that reveal Beethoven as a bully. So a complicated man, then.

I should probably add that this film must be taken at face value, with a pinch or two of salt and an open mind. Because, as I'm sure other reviewers must have mentioned, it is based on the viewpoint of Beethoven's apparent friend, one Dr. Anton Schindler. A viewpoint that has been questioned many times down the years. That doesn't mean that one should leap from ones seat, holler, "Lies, lies, it's all LIES!" and eternally ignore it on this basis. If you did you'd be denying yourself a very finely crafted piece of entertainment of a kind that is rarely seen these days. Entertainment - not documentary. Most of this film gives an interpretation of Beethoven's life rather than the 'real picture' of it. But that is what I believe the best biopics do.

So I love this film but I can't say, in all honesty, that I believe it to be flawless. I can't help wishing that it had focused slightly less on Beethoven's romantic and sexual affairs (which dominate here) and more on Beethoven's music production, the richer sides of his eruptive personality, his politics (crucial when considering his art) and the times he lived in (just nuts). There were a few scenes dealing with the violent politics of his times that were certainly effective, such as the one in which poor Julia (Giulietta Guicciardi) was victimised, and yet some parts still felt rushed. The director seemed reluctant to do more than lightly brush a hand over these subjects rather than exploring them in a meaningful way. But then perhaps if he had done so fewer people would have watched it. Also, one other criticism, the female 'love/sex-interest' characters were just a little similar too each other. For me at least they seemed to blend into each other almost, with the exception of the always excellent Isabella Rosselini as Anna Marie Erdödy who really should have been given more and better lines.

Personally speaking, I'm all for a new film of Beethoven's life and times, with Gary Oldman (or a lesser known actor of equal strength and purpose) playing the role of the mature Beethoven and a younger talent playing the young, driven and 'sexier' romantic. So much has been written both on and by Ludwig Van Beethoven that surely some bright spark out there with the passion and vision could create something even more substantial. Immortal Beloved, though a pleasure, is fast becoming an old film. I'd love to see a fresh and more satisfying take.

FYI, for a better understanding of the many sides of Beethoven's personality you can find a copy of his complete letters easily online. It makes for very good reading. Firstly, you'll find that his love of humanity seemed to run just as deep as his occasional grumpy misanthropy, both sides seemingly bursting out of him in passionate bouts only to fade off again just as soon. Secondly, they are a lot more entertaining than you may think. The copy I have is often both hilarious and moving on the same page (my God this man liked his wine). It's all a bit, "I-love-you-No-I-hate-you-No-I-love-you-again-No-actually-I-mean-the-Devil-take-you!-No-wait-come-back-please-buy-me-nice-things-again-Thanks-for-the-lovely-wine-Oh-and-I-almost-forgot-you-owe-me-money-Ha-Ha-Oh-God-I-m-deaf-How-did-that-happen-Damn-and-blast-my-wretched-life! e.t.c. And that's just the letters to his friends. The letters to his female friends (lovers? Who knows?) are beautiful yet equally mad and confusing (as this film testifies). But always poetically so. Ross and Rachel eat your heart out. Mozart's are funny too, though grubbier. To be read along with 'Amadeus' (1984) and a good wine.
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on 10 September 2003
In my view, this isn't an out & out attempt at a strict biopic, and the casual viewer should be aware that a considerable amount of artistic license has been taken with the storyline.
However, get over the need for absolute historical accuracy; what this movie's really about is providing a hugely enjoyable feast for the senses. Gary Oldman is superb. Whoever decided to cast this seemingly unlikely choice for the lead role deserves an award for inspiration bordering on genius. The metamorphosis Oldman achieves is little short of miraculous, a grand statement to the high art of character acting. It's clear that our man has researched his role with an absolute determination to capture the great composer's persona. Thank you Mr Oldman, for what it's worth you've earned this punter's total respect and I'm sure there'll be literally millions more like me. No doubt some of the more academic types will scoff at my sentiments but I think they are missing the point. This is an extremely beautiful film, hugely enjoyable and will doubtless encourage many encountering Beethoven for the first-time to investigate further, itself a great thing.
The setting & atmosphere for the gradually-decaying early 19th century Hapsburg Empire are finely depicted & evocative, and in particular the use of light - both natural & artificial, shows exceptional skill. This is a work of craftmanship by a team who obviously knew what they were doing and worked hard at getting things right.
To sum up, this isn't history, but make no mistake, as a piece of entertainment it's a classic. . The final evocation of Beethoven's spirit set to the Ode to Joy captures this great genius's monumental legacy... hope, a gift for all mankind.
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The title of the film relates to a letter sent by Beethoven to a lady with whom he had fallen in love. But the name of that lady is unknown and this mystery has long fascinated Beethoven scholars. Many have been the names put in the frame. Bernard Rose, who wrote as well as directed this movie, presents his theory. Is it Giuletta Giucciardi, Countess Gallenberg, or Anna-Marie, Countess Erdody, or Johanna Reiss, his sister-in-law?

There is so much that is wrong with this film - for example, its historical inaccuracies; the lack of consistency in accents; and the use of hilly Prague to portray flat Vienna. Watching this film I was often confronted with the crass, the artless, the preposterous, the embarrassing, and the laughable. We have comedy with Barry Humphries as Metternich, Dame Edna Everage struggling to emerge from within his breast. We have naff lines such as Schindler's "It was that damned sonata" on the day that he met Beethoven. And yet, and yet ...

The film is colourful and imaginative, Beethoven's deafness is convincingly conveyed, and the sub-story of the composer's relationship with his nephew is well-told. Perhaps the idea was to replicate the success of "Amadeus" for Beethoven with a high-quality costume-drama. Bernard Rose says that he used the story of seeking Beethoven's "immortal beloved" as an excuse to show the more private and difficult sides of the composer.

Jeroen Krabbe (originally marked down as to play Beethoven) is good as the composer's amanuensis Schindler; equally good is Johanna Ter Steege as the subject of the title. But Gary Oldman is mesmerising as the man himself; his eyes, his hair, his lips, all seem so perfect for the role. Oldman says that he passed on the script twice, but realised it would be a good departure from his usual roles. He tells us that we have to look at the film as a fiction, as Beethoven filtered through the director's vision. Bernard Rose concedes that his film has been attacked by scholars on historical grounds, but he insists that the movie is about the music, being aimed at twelve- and thirteen-year-olds to show that Beethoven's music was not stuffy - is not stuffy - but rather something worth exploring. And indeed, on the way, we hear some of the greatest music ever written, with Georg Solti conducting, the music editing into the film being skilfully done and very commendable.

The extras on this DVD include `talent files' for the main actors and director, a director's commentary, a five-minute featurettes and a thirty-minute documentary called "Beloved Beethoven".
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This is a sumptuous film from 1994 starring the uber brilliant Gary Oldman as Beethoven, the famously deaf composer. We join the story when he has shuffled off his mortal coil and leaves behind an unhappy sibling as he has left his entire estate to his `Immortal Beloved'. But who can this person be? His erstwhile friend and secretary Anton Schindler (Jeroen Krabbe) who had discovered the last will and testament and takes it upon himself to track down this woman.

On his travels we get the story in flash back. This includes many times his music and the reasons or more often, the emotions that caused him to compose such pieces. As the tales unfold the mystery of his life and loves starts to become clearer and he is revealed as a very complex character indeed.

As expected this is a simply brilliant production with great attention to period detail and acting that is all Academy nomination material and we have some excellent players including Isabella Rossellini and Barry Humphreys. Gary Oldman shows why he has had such a shining career with a performance that illicits contempt and sympathy in equal measure. I was transfixed on this from the very start and didn't notice time ebbing away and this is a two hour film. Absolutely luscious one you will be richer for having seen.
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on 14 March 2012
Just to add my own comment. Gary Oldman is brilliant in this film which captures the essential drama of Beethoven's life. No need to get hung up on historical details.

However one truth that is missed over. Gary Oldman is an accomplished classical pianist. He is actually playing Beethoven.

I saw a brief interview with him and his mother at the time of the film's release and he revealed his own playing when he had to correct people who told him he had done a wonderful job of miming the playing!

He had to correct them, "It was me playing!"
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Immortal Beloved [DVD] [1994]

When Beethoven (Gary Oldman) died his friend Anton Schindler Jeroen Krabbe) discovered four letters addressed to the "Immortal Beloved" and as we followed Schindlers efforts to trace the unknown woman (no one has ever discovered for certain who she was) but considered to be one of the four women portrayed in the film.

This is not a biopic but a very successful effort to use selective flashbacks to evoke the rebellious and turbulent nature of this unhappy creative genius, including his obsessive behaviour towards his nephew Karl (Marco Hofscheinder).

The portrayal of the composer confronted with total deafness is searing, particularly the scene where he tries to hear a piano by laying his head on the lid, and later having to be turned around during the first performance of his Choral Symphony to acknowledge the applause.

Am absolute gem.
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on 30 November 2015
This is a goodish film, nearly dragged out of the ordinary by the performance of Mr Oldman... but not quite. Hard to know exactly where it lacks: the script is flabby but not too bad; the acting is good throughout, the direction, the cinematography, all fine. It lacks wit, though, both visually and in dialogue, and is all a bit hysterical and arm-flappy. In the end, of all the areas to dig into when making a film about Beethoven, is his love life really the best? It seems lazy. What makes Amadeus arguably a far superior film is that it focuses on the work, on the professional rivalry... and the bedroom stuff is applied as small daubs of colour here and there around what is really important about Mozart... namely, his music.
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on 5 May 2010
This is wonderful to watch on Blu-Ray from a visual and sound perspective. The sound is particularly impressive and detailed. For those of you interested in the Blu-ray version please note that this is an ALL Region disc (A,B & C) so it will play on any player, which is good news as this disc does not seem to be available from european sellers. One other minor thing to note is that the case is thinner (flatter) than the standard European ones but is the same height. I had never seen these type of case before so I am assuming that this is the standard American case. Highly recommended Blu-Ray Disc.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 9 August 2011
SAFE READING - NO SPOILERS

This probes into the identity of the lady who, since letters were discovered in a concealed section of his desk after his death in March 1827, has been the subject of scholarly enquiry. This film does little to extend the search but it is enjoyable. The letter was discovered by Anton Schindler and Stephan von Breuning, two very close friends without whose constant support and friendship it seems unlikely that we would have had the musical output we had from Beethoven. Discovered with The Heiligenstadt Testament - a letter to his brothers as he dealt with the on-set of his deafness, some say a suicide note - it is possible that, like the Testament, it was never shown to anyone in his life.
Arguments have raged ever since about the identity of the lady and I do not intent to continue the debate here; Schindler was Beethoven's executor and the film depicts him trying to discover her identity during 1827-1828. Suffice to state the film is historically inaccurate in most ways, proposing an unlikely set of circumstances but it does have the appearance and feeling of the time and the performance of Gary Oldman as Beethoven is captivatingly brilliant throughout. Most films about musicians have the inherent problem of actors who do not play instruments to the level required and the need to inter-cut shots of others' hands. Oldman solves these problems and, added to his appearance and acting ability, he makes up for many of the faults.
Do not expect John Suchet type information or accuracy on film and be prepared for some obvious inaccuracies and impossible scenarios but, that written, it is an enjoyable film.
Although I know the music well and am quite knowledgeable about Beethoven, his life and times, I enjoyed it and rate it number two in my list of fictional portrayals on the screen: "Eroica", "Immortal Beloved" and "Copying Beethoven".

If accurate historical and biographical information are required but on the screen, I recommend Phil Grabsky's "In Search of Beethoven". Not wonderful but historically accurate, filmed in all the right places and based on chronological events.
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on 5 March 2013
The disc arrived and appears to be fine. To describe anything regarding Beethoven would require an endless plethora of superlatives. As a teenager I was hooked on New Orleans traditional jazz until I heard the opening bars of the glorious Fifth Symphony followed shortly after by the Romance Number Two and then totally hooked.
He was a force in his own.
Regards
Iain R. Stewart
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