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.
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".
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.
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!"
Immortal Beloved [DVD] 
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.
on 28 May 2016
As a fan of Beethoven and classical music, I was interested to see this film and it's depiction of parts of his life. I'm sure to create more drama, many aspects of the story is embellished or possibly in some cases factually incorrect, but as far as I know many of the most memorable parts of Beethoven's life that have been recorded are depicted here, with great respect and admiration to the composer. In particular the story focuses on the famous Immortal Beloved letter and investigates who the recipient may have been. Although it may only appeal to classical music fans in particular, it is a good film overall (if a little slow at times), with some truly moving moments and good performances all round by the cast. In particular, Gary Oldman seems to perfectly capture how we often perceive Beethoven's personality, with at times great passion, stubbornness and temper; but also moments of great sensitivity, insecurity and vulnerability.
on 2 June 2012
Immortal Beloved is an interesting film focusing on events in the composer Ludwig Van Beethoven. Rather than a biopic the film begins with Beethoven's funeral and his friend and assistant trying to find who his 'Immortal Beloved' is in his last will and testament. In this way the film is very similar to the excellent 'Citizen Kane' which uses employs flashbacks to tell the story.
Gary Oldman plays Beethoven with a subtle German accent and you can sense the frustration and anger of his struggle with Deafness and communicating with the people around him who presume he is just arrogant and ignorant.
The music of course is fantastic and it complements the story, the atmosphere and mood of the film, especially when it is revealed who Beethoven's 'Immortal Beloved' was!
Although in my opinion 'Immortal Beloved' isn't as good as 'Amadeus' it is a very different film and I would still highly recommend the film to lovers of great music and moving drama.
on 23 August 2012
A sublime film with Gary Oldman playing Beethoven with deep intensity as he of course is so well known from that famous portrait. This portrait is present in one particular scene of the film and you can immediately see how good Oldman really is. I never for a moment took the film as portraying a factual story but rather as a way to show the character of Beethoven and maybe also to show how his great genius was engendered (encroaching deafness, love lost). The lighting is superb, the use of Beethoven's great music is astonishing. I watched the film with one of my sisters and she like me were deeply emotionally affected throughout. I think it really shows what it took to be such a genius and it simply demonstrates in the most sublime way his music, oh his music, or as is said at the end of the film, how could anyone who could write music like that be all bad.
on 7 April 2001
Immortal Beloved is a passionate epic of Beethoven's troubled life. Gary Oldman is #1 in my top ten actors list as time and time again he produces breath-taking performances - why he hasn't got an oscar yet is beyond me. The story tells of how the general population of Viennia despised Beethoven, then came to love his work, how they came to make fun and abuse him, his many love affairs, his final masterpiece and eventually, his death. A moving, superb film, HIGHLY recommended.
on 20 February 2012
Gary Oldman gives a truly superb and inspired performance as the troubled composer, LvBeethoven. The film focuses on Beethovens love life, with focus on his character and gradual loss of hearing. There are good and bad bits to the film. Some scenes are very well done, eg. the scene where Beethoven lays his head on the piano in order to hear the sound of the piano, and Beethoven's final and disastrous public performance, the premier of his magnificent Emperor concerto, a piece which features quite prominently in the film. The music is of course a highlight. I personally like the selection, which consists of his most famous works. However, the music could be seen by some to be clichéd, like the stormy section of the pastoral symphony building up as Beethoven begins to lose his temper.
To begin with I was impressed with the historical accuracy. Placement of music is good, the sonatas appear at vaguely the right times. Events considered genuine appear in the film eg. the story behind the premier of his 9th symphony, which is now fairly well known. Tears fill beethovens eyes when he hears nothing at the end, and he has to be turned around to accept the crowds ecstatic response. Beethoven's music was "epic", and I feel that the film should have had a more dramatic and epic quality. Too often there are missed opportunities to make things bigger.
The film is degraded for me by the naff conclusion that Johanna reiss was Beethoven's "immortal beloved". Unlike Schaffers Amadeus (1984) where the Mozart/ salieri plot is clearly just a story, here the writer and director Bernard Rose instead makes a dodgy truth claim. What would he know? No Beethoven expert agrees with him. Looking at the facts, it was more likely josephine brunsvik, whom he dedicated the moonlight to. I's my main problem with the film. It's incomprehensible, as this conclusion is not exactly needed to elevate the film, which is good enough already. Also, the presentation of ludwigs father Johann is overwhelmingly negative, when no solid evidence suggests he was in any way a harsh instructor. I guess this sort of myth making is needed to make a more interesting story line?
In short, a good film, but let down by the script. Other reviewers have mentioned the naff lines that appear every so often and they really do grate. Worth watching, but not really worthy of an excellent rating all round, which is why i only give 3.5 stars.