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This review is from: Immortal Beloved [DVD]  [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] (DVD)
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".