F. Murray Abraham in Amadeus

My Favorite Scene: Amadeus (1984) “The Patron Saint of Mediocrity”

We recently lost a great director in Milos Forman and, while he left an impressive list of works, nothing approaches his accomplishment in Amadeus.  The biopic of Mozart is a showcase for two things: Mozart’s music and the role F. Murray Abraham was born to play: Mozart’s composing rival Salieri.  Some actors only get to be iconic in one role.  That’s the case with Abraham, who has gone on to do some fine character work, but nothing that touches Salieri.  The only thing worse than being bad at something is being very good at what you were born to do and sitting in the shadow of a legend.  The high points of Amadeus are the scenes between a feeble, mad Salieri in an asylum conversing with a priest.  They serve to connect the audience to the ongoing narrative of Mozart’s short life, and they become increasingly more menacing and unhinged as Salieri rails against God for turning his back on him and making Mozart his messenger through music.  The composer gone mad ends the film absolving the other inmates having dubbed himself “The Patron Saint of Mediocrity”.

Serenade for Winds in B-Flat Major is my favorite piece of Mozart’s and the one Salieri chooses to try to explain what made Mozart’s music so transcendent.  Hundreds of years since his passing, and Mozart is still the greatest composer of all-time.  Even if you don’t think you know Mozart’s music, by the end of the film you realize how much you actually do and how much it still serves as the soundtrack of the human race.  Salieri lived long enough to see his own works forgotten.  Amadeus resembles its subject in 100 years from now, people will still watch this film in wonder and delight, both because of the music that inspired it and the brilliant film craft that wove an epic biography around it.

3 thoughts on “My Favorite Scene: Amadeus (1984) “The Patron Saint of Mediocrity””

  1. When I first saw this movie, I had only just started high school, and I thought this ending was unessaaary and overwrought. What a difference living an actual life can make. It’s one of the great finales in the history of film.

    Only The Godfather is a perfect movie, but Amedeus is as close to perfect as a movie can get without being perfect. I’ve seen it a thousand times and it never gets old. Milos Forman made some other great movies (I will never forgive him for making One Flew Over the Cucoo’s Nest so perfectly, brilliantly devastating) but this one has a depth of feeling that isn’t even there in Man on the Moon. Maybe it’s a relatability thing. The destructive forces inside Salieri could not be clearer, whereas you have to work to figure out what brought Andy Kaufman down. At least, I do. It’s what separates a conventional biopic from a highly original flight of fantasy like Amedeus. RIP Milos, you gave me one of my top ten movies.

    Like

  2. This was, of course long before end/mid credit scenes, but the audience in the the theater where I saw it for the first time, remained in their seats stunned, and then they applauded.
    I’d never experienced that before. 😀 … I too, sat in my seat, stunned, and joined in the appaluse with tears running down my face.

    Liked by 1 person

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