When Salieri, an old contemporary composer of Mozart claims that he killed him, we get a retrospective of the two and how their stories intertwine...
We get a sense of Salieri's jealousy over a young cocky upstart who makes his peers appear amateur and bland. But his bitterness isn't squarely aimed at the young composer, instead he develops a seething hatred of the God who gave such a gift to an infantile idiot whilst he is forced to recognise his own inferiority. He provides a fascinating analysis of Mozart's work, exposing its very soul as he describes it with both vitriol and awe. F. Murray Abraham manages to play Salieri in a way which captures sympathy for the character who is plotting against Mozart in such a calculating manner. He doesn't just come across as a bitter old man, you get a feeling of the respect and wonder he has for the man who has made his life a misery.
Tom Hulce is equally as good as the iconic musical genius; Mozart's body seems to struggle to contain his energy. They escape their confinement and manifest themselves as moments of mania, flamboyancy, and bursts of idiotic laughter. The character almost seems a bit shallow until you see him describe his music and understand the depth of his passion.
The film is famous for the amazing costumes, and naturally there's an incredible soundtrack! The American accents grate at first, but eventually they feel natural and fit in with the style of the film - though it is a shame that it was deemed as necessary in order to appeal to the US audience (Simon Callow fits in with the American cast by putting on an American accent). At just over two and a half hours there's enough time to develop the story fully and include some good portions of Mozart's music, though those unfamiliar with his work (or even those who don't like it for some insane reason!) will find it gives a vibrancy which accompanies the lush sets.
In a nutshell: An interesting way to convey the life of a man whom the world will always admire. Translating the play to film was a risky manoeuvre - but it's one which paid off. Performances by actors who immerse themselves in the roles and excellent script writing prevents this from becoming a campy flick, instead you get caught up in the energy and end up spending the following day humming The Magic Flute, or at least Falco's 'Rock Me Amadeus'!