By Doug Cummings
Arizona Daily Wildcat
"Immortal Beloved," is a new visually stunning movie about Beethoven's (Gary Oldman) later years. It begins with his death as a grand but misunderstood man who leaves one clue that would explain his soul. The clue is a love letter to an unknown woman, to whom he has willed his inheritance.
Anton Schindler (Jeroen Krabbe), a faithful associate of Beethoven, begins fervently interviewing all of Beethoven's lovers as they recount the maestro's life during their various affairs.
The movie is directed by Bernard Rose ("Candyman"), a painterly director who composes his imagery with deep shadows and detailed period textures. His attention to details, like the rocking back and forth of a chandelier during a bombardment, and the oily blues of night-enshrouded streets adds a great amount of authenticity and atmosphere.
The movie uses some of Beethoven's most famous works for its supporting music and its dramatic romanticism conveys to the viewer Beethoven's brilliance. This is important because much of the film details Beethoven's volatile nature and intolerance towards others. At times, he seems so completely selfish that one may wonder why any of his dying wishes even matter. However, later on, the film tries to explain away his punchiness by singling out a personal affliction he contended with.
In its subject matter the movie resembles "Amadeus," the film about Mozart's life. But "Immortal Beloved" lacks the eccentricity and humor of "Amadeus." The movie is a dark and dour film, full of heavy remorse and tragic romanticism. Its somber atmosphere weakens the film slightly, as all the characters seem depressed and distant.
The movie works best when the sumptuous visuals and the shimmering music meld into a visceral experience. During one great symphony, an entire short narrative is presented. The movie cuts back from the concert hall to Beethoven's childhood, and the simple power of the imagery lifts the movie above its other, more turgid moments.
Gary Oldman ("The Professional," "Bram Stoker's Dracula") conveys the inner anger and remorse of Beethoven well. Oldman is fun to watch because he can flare up in wild intensity, but he takes his time and doesn't mind standing still in the moments preceding an eruption, playing the suspense well.
The other actors offer refined performances, especially Isabella Rossellini ("Blue Velvet," "Wyatt Earp") who evokes a sense of emotional honesty throughout. She conveys her character's emotions through subtlety and nuance.
"Immortal Beloved" is a beautiful film to watch because its visuals derive power from their authenticity and attention to detail. If it fails to produce a strong emotional reaction due to its subdued tone, it nevertheless serves as a moving portrait of the inner turmoils of a troubled genius.
"Immortal Beloved" is showing at Century Park 16, 620-0750.
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