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3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5 stars
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on 23 April 2010
I was intrigued by the title of this film. Copying Beethoven? Copying him how? I'm sure many have tried to copy his work, imitate his genius but as he himself said, "There can and will be thousands of princes, but there is only one Beethoven!" However it soon becomes clear in the film that 'copying' refers to a copyist, a scribe who copies out his musical scores for use of the maembers of the orchestra. Well every composer of the time used those. The copyist here though is a young woman, Anna who wishes to become a composer herself. Very unusual, and knowing Beethoven's character it is extremely unlikely he would have consented to work with a female copyist! Not only that, she presumes to 'correct' the great composer's work!!
You really have to suspend belief in order to make it through the whole of this fantasy LOOSELY based on the last year of Beethoven's life when he composed and premiered the glorious 9th Symphony. There are some scenes which are frankly cringe-making, such as the one wher he supposedly makes fun of a piece of music that Anna has written by pretending to break wind in time to it. Beethoven had a deep respect for women and would never have done such a thing. The other awful moment is when he asks Anna which of his Piano Sonatas is her favourite and when she hesitates announces, "Oh I know, the moonlight!" and bares his behind to her. Just terrible! For one thing Beethoven did not give Piano Sonata no 14 that title, it acquired that after his death, he himself called it 'Sonata in the manner of a Fantasia' and although he was certainly no saint and known to be rude and sometimes outrageously so, never would he have demeaned himself and insulted a female so.
So is there anything to redeem this film? Yes. There are some nice scenes, some funny scenes, some poignant ones, and the depiction of the premiere of the 9th Symphony is very well done even with the innaccuracies. (Beethoven is shown as conducting with Anna's help which he did not in fact do. By that time he was profoundly deaf and it would have been impossible.) However nothing can take away from the sheer beauty and power of the music, and there is a nice long excerpt.
To sum up, if you are a Beethoven fan, you will either hate it because of the innacuracies, or you will be prepared to put up with those to watch a film about the Maestro which gets some things right. If you're not particularly into Beethoven you will probably enjoy the story. Ed Harris's performance is very good.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 28 March 2015
What a surprise this film is! My impulse is almost to cheer it, it so exceeds expectations of this kind of biopic. To be sure, the female copyist brought in for the Ninth Symphony is an invented figure, but the gambit pays off. Agnieszka Holland made a very good film about an extraordinary traversal of the Second World War, Europa Europa, so you know she can handle a large canvas; also her telling of the Verlaine and Rimbaud story showed her digging into intimacy with a very non-mainstream frankness. Here she does not suggest Beethoven fell in love with the copyist Anna Holtz, but more that she was a kind of angel who somehow dovetailed with music in his mind like Saint Cecilia herself. His passion seems to be directed more at his nephew Karl, who was somewhat profligate and exploited Beethoven's love for him. This is shown realistically, and both Diane Kruger and Joe Anderson are brilliantly cast in these twin roles. As an indication of the film's underlying generosity, Holland shows Karl at the stupendous first performance of the Ninth Symphony, visibly moved by the beautiful last section for the solo vocal quartet, tears streaming down his face. There is something sublime about this, and the power of the music to touch the soul is suggested without tackiness thanks to the remarkable cinematography and a host of other aspects, particularly the gliding between Beethoven and Holtz in a counterpoint to the music itself.

The success of the film, however, really rests on Ed Harris's monolithic shoulders. Generally it is impossible for an actor to satisfy our imagining of what one of the great figures of history was like, and they don't come any greater than Beethoven ... but Ed Harris is quite extraordinary. First he looks very like the composer; but more than this, he convinces you that Beethoven would have been very like this, there is such a sense of depth behind what he says, of ineffable depth behind the irascible exterior, of a tender man of great sensitivity behind the sometimes crude front, of someone who couldn't be contained by politeness. To attempt consciously to do this could so easily have been hammy, but not with Harris, who pulls off something completely amazing. He was very good four years earlier as a poet in The Hours, but here he convinces just as much in a much harder role to bring off. As he rages and expands, sometimes shirtless, he looks like a Rodin sculpture made flesh, and the size of his gestures, his mind, his vision, is constantly reinforced by every shot of him. I couldn't help feeling here that a woman's perspective paid dividends in an eye which seemed to caress him as one might a fearsome lion. The look of the interiors is also wonderful, never too 'fixed'-looking, and filmed in close-up with a fairly mobile camera; in this Holland seems to have found an analogy to the passion and drive of the music. I was struck by how much Beethoven talked about God; I don't know whether he was overtly religious, but his music could only come from someone who was intensely spiritual.
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on 15 February 2008
At the moment, we're having to watch the DVD on our laptop: still no PAL version, though it's continually promised... like yesterday!

Ed Harris is absolutely magnificent as LvB. The balance between the inner man (who continually "talks to God") and the everyday man (who can't cope with anything in the mundane, day-to-day world) is as near perfect as anyone is going to get. I've been a devotee of LvB for most of my 62 years; watching this film is like seeing a video of an old friend: the interpretation really IS that good.

I know it's factually inaccurate... but that doesn't seem to matter much. The FEEL of the thing is right. This is how the man was: genius, chamber pots, and all. And the part of the film that deals with the 9th's first performance (with a splendid rendering of the finale!) was enough to reduce me (literally) to tears. If you love LvB's music, watch this film: I promise you you won't be disappointed.
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Anybody that has read any of my music reviews will know that my passion is primarily 'pop' ....my point being you do not need to have a love of the man's music to appreciate this film, you'll find a stunning portrayal of 'Beethoven's' final years by 'Ed Harris along with great back up from 'Diane Kruger' as 'Anna'
'Anna' who aspires to write her own music jumps at the opportunity to assist the 'maestro' 'Beethoven' by copying his works for him.
His health is failing and he is also almost deaf, yet he continues his works.
This rude and arrogant man becomes fond of his assistant and slowly shows her the respect she hopes for.
Yet despite his problems he continued writing till the end and is obviously responsible for some of the greatest 'classical works' of all time.
I must admit other than my old music's teacher's best efforts many moons ago which did give me some awareness, i didn't really make much effort to follow the 'arts' ( music ) so i wasn't sure whether this was for me, i took the chance and i can tell you I would recommend a viewing.
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on 30 June 2014
The costumes and sets look authentic. What spoils the whole thing is the improbable story line ending with a talentless nobody (and female to boot!) guiding the great master in his performance of the Ninth. Not only unbelievable but nowhere to be found in any historical records of his life, contradictory though they often are. I've given three stars because of the powerful acting by Ed Harris, undeniably superb in the role of Beethoven. He is particularly credible in the 'softer' scenes where he seeks forgiveness or cracks his notoriously awful jokes.
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on 3 August 2016
Excellent acting, ludicrous story. At least I had a good laugh at the sight of the young girl conducting the ninth from the midst of the orchestra so that the maestro could mimic her gestures!! When will films about composers concentrate on the truth rather than fantasy? (eg Amadeus,The Music Lovers, Immortal Beethoven,this offering and others) Surely most of the composers led lives which were interesting enough without the need for ridiculous embellishments. The films mentioned may be entertaining and exceptionally well acted and produced but if they had only tried to present true pictures they could have been so much better for not having been reduced to musical soap operas. Perhaps that is too much to ask of film. If you want something resembling accuracy and truth you must always seek out the written word.
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on 19 July 2012
Not sure what to say really...one staringly obvious point that anyone who knows the smallest thing about Beethoven is that they probably know he was deaf in the last ten years of his life. The makers of this film clearly don't . The Master could only be spoken to through his "conversation books" or the slate and chalk he kept to hand. Everyone chats away to him in this film...He couldn't hear! not even his own incredible music.

Would he have had a women copyist? No. He was certainly not rude to women either. Nice costumes and acting but if you want to learn about Beethoven invest in Phil Grabsky's documentary "In search of Beethoven." As a story I suppose it's nice enough film and the music is amazing. But it doesn't even come close to doing him justice really. He was an awkward old bugger who was also intensley human this is why his music still speaks "from the heart to the heart" after nearly two centuries.

I bought this film more as an addition to my Beethoven collection. I also collect unusual and rare books about the great man and this film is just part of the collection. It'll probably just sit on a shelf now.
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on 9 June 2012
Beethoven. What an amazing subject for a film and what a disappointment. Toe-curling scene with his copyist (a female?!!) helping Beethoven to conduct one of his masterpieces - from centre stage - and giving him lots of encouraging little nods and smiles. Mary Poppins came to mind!
For anyone looking for a quality DVD on Beethoven buy instead, (on Amazon!), 'In Search of Beethoven' a film by Phil Grabsky. Intelligent, moving, worth endless viewing and historically correct! The music is pure joy.
(Sorry - I didn't like the other daft film about LvB either - Immortal Beloved)
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If you are a keen fan of Beethoven, musically and as a historical figure, then you might find this movie grates on you because of the quite extensive use of artistic license in portraying both facts around the real copyist(s) involved in the final symphony as well as some historical context (for example Beethoven, in this film, refers to the Moonlight sonata, but in actual fact he never gave that sonata such a nickname', it was done when being published year later). There is also no evidence, I am told, of a copyist (male or female) with the degree of influence alluded to in the screenplay of this movie's version of events.

My overall personal impression is that I did enjoy watching it perhaps because, although I like Beethoven, I wouldn't say I'm so keen as to feel affronted by the deliberate inaccuracies.

So... If we were to ignore the artistic license and consider this film as a standalone story about a composer's final 3 years, how does it stand up to expectation of enjoyment of a period drama via blu-ray? Technically the sound and video is excellent. The acting from the two leads is convincing. The supporting cast is also enjoyable to watch, the costumes and sets are very good indeed (i don't know where it was filmed, i.e. whether in the actual original locations or not, but it looks convincing). Having said all that, and despite my enjoyment, I can't say that I would have been greatly worried if (knowing what I know that, having watched it) I had never seen the movie, but since it wasn't expensive when I bought it, I am not overly worried. I think my Mum or aunty would like it more than I did, so that's where it will go next :)

A final thought, when Amadeus was released all those years ago, there had never been a film like it I think. It made quite an impact both from musical and dramatic perspective. There are a lot of reasons for that and it remains a classic to this day, but it would be off topic to go into it too much. I just thought to mention it because that movie also had liberal quantities of artistic license applied, it seemed to work though and the impact was no less for it. A lot of people who knew nothing about Mozart nor classical music were moved so much by the drama and the soundtrack that it opened them to discover more about Mozart, his music and indeed other classical music too. So if we were to compare this Beethoven drama to Amadeus, I think everyone would agree that it is several notches below Amadeus as a movie and in that sense perhaps it's a bit of a failure, not because of Beethoven's music, but because the film as a whole lacks a certain amount of soul and conviction.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 9 August 2011
This is an unlikely story with some highly suspect and quite impossible but, having written that, it is also enjoyable and captures the flavour of the time.

The director, Agnieszka Holland, and the production team, created a real feeling of the period, the driven passion for music, the hectic struggle to have music copied in time for performances or publishers, Beethoven's tempestuous relationship with his nephew and the nature of the premiers, e.g. the Ninth with that poignant and moving scene at the end, a scene well documented in scholarly texts.
Bill Stewart, Matyelok Gibbs, Gabor Bohus, and a young Diane Kruger, all perform admirably but, for me, "the oscar" has to go to Ed Harris, whose wild hair, fierce eyes and seismic temper capture Beethoven well. (Although I cannot recall the reference or source, I seem to remember that Ed Harris had been trying to make this film for some time. Like his portrayal of the mercurial Jackson Pollock - Jack the Dripper -, he fills Beethoven's shoes with enthusiasm.)

I will not go into the unlikely scenes (of which there are quite a few) as that would give too much away. However, it is a "marmite film", so be aware. Although I am well-versed in his music and details of Beethoven's life, I was able to ignore the inaccuracies, the somewhat ridiculous and the completely impossible and enjoy it. I recommend it as a film for its capture of the flavour of the time, the performance of Ed Harris and the events which could have happened - just don't expect John Suchet type information on the screen. Sit back and enjoy the music too.
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