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Abel Gance's Beethoven (Un Grand Amour de Beethoven)

4.5 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

The silent epic and international cinema legend Abel Gance is most celebrated for his sweeping and pioneering biography masterpiece Napoleon. But this touching and tortured document of the legendary Beethoven's creative genius deserves equal tribute and attention. Like Napoleon, Beethoven is Gance's portrait of a great mind, a giant of history, here crafted as a romantic vision of the artist. The film chronicles the years of Beethoven's greatest successes and his struggles against overwhelming adversity--poverty, the onset of deafness and his unrequited passion for his "Immortal Beloved." Writer/director Gance conducts a symphony of images set to an expressionistic score, depicting not only the events but the spirit of the composer's life. 117 minutes.

If one were to gather the hundreds of books written about Ludwig van Beethoven, sift through each with a fine-tooth comb, and extract every simple mistake, wild speculation, and outright falsehood, the result would still be nowhere near as fabulous and artificial as this 1936 biopic, which rewrites the composer's life story into a throbbingly melodramatic tale of genius ignored and love unrequited. Director Abel Gance, best known for his expansive silent classic Napoleon, wasn't interested in the truth of Beethoven's life, but instead the romantic ideal of a great man tormented by history; Gance's Beethoven is merely a variation of the filmmaker's beloved Bonaparte, triumphant yet scorned by his inferiors in the artistic realm rather than the political. (Needless to say, among the film's many omissions is Beethoven's bitter rededication of the "Eroica" Symphony.)

Beginning where every portrait of Beethoven the man must, with the identification of the Immortal Beloved, the film nominates (wrongly) Giulietta Gallenberg, née Guicciardi, reconstructing their brief passion as a lifelong obsession. During each of Beethoven's struggles--with love, poverty, deafness--thunder cracks against the sky and the opening notes of the Fifth burst onto the soundtrack to punctuate the action. Meet the film on its own novelette-like terms, however, and it can be quite moving, not least for the magnificent presence of Harry Baur in the lead, who captures to perfection the tortured nobility the film foists upon its protagonist. Baur's conception is as outsized as Gance's, but also gentler and less sentimental; he humanizes what could have been a treacly salute to a marble statue. An unusual final credit places the actor's name alongside the director's, a touching admission by Gance at how indebted his film was to its star. --Bruce Reid

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Harry Baur, Annie Ducaux, Jany Holt, Jean-Louis Barrault, André Nox
  • Directors: Abel Gance
  • Writers: Abel Gance, Steve Passeur
  • Producers: Christian Stengel, Michel Kagansky
  • Format: Black & White, NTSC
  • Language: French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Image Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: October 25, 2000
  • Run Time: 116 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00004ZET0
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #176,164 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Abel Gance's Beethoven (Un Grand Amour de Beethoven)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Patrick Selitrenny on December 13, 2002
Format: DVD
There are not many filmed biographies dedicated to the Music master of all times, the latest being "Beethoven in Love" (which is Hollywoodiana at its worst).
In Abel Gance's version, "Un Grand Amour de Beethoven", not only do we find some of the best French actors of an Era long gone, but we have a true effort at character study.
Like in the Austrian movie, which nowadays is practically unavailable, called "Eroica", another excellent example of a screen translation of the man's life, "Un Grand Amour..." is a fair attempt at giving us Beethoven, the man, not the lover, not just the composer, but a man in his time.
In this one, somebody may still ask himself if Beethoven's love went to women, to a particular woman, or to a simple and probably more logic choice, to his music.
But there is more. The man's interior struggles are shown.
In a time period in which Revolutionary thinking seemed to permeate society, Beethoven comes through as the German "revolutionary" composer he was.
Beethoven craved for human love like any other human being, but in the end, as a realist as he was, and viewed the handicap he was facing, deafness, he concentrated totally and exclusively to his music.
In this movie, one can see that struggle for love, but instead of being a defeat to Beethoven (as in the above mentioned trashy movie), the man turns it into a triumph over the senses and brings himself, as well as his own music to an apotheosis never since equaled by any other composer.
Abel Gance seems to have understood this and respecting the genius of another master of the artistic trade, delivers a very touching account of the master's life.
The only downside to this effort is the poor technology filmmakers had in those days.
Read more ›
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"Un grand amour de Beethoven" (1936), Directed by Abel Gance, is so full of passion, love and music -- beautiful music! It is a lyrical biography with actors who are well cast and quite talented -- unlike the 1994 movie version "Immortal Beloved".
Harry Baur's acting performance, as Beethoven, is heart felt and very strong. Abel Gance was a true cinematic artist, we could see that in the restored version of his silent epic "Napoleon". But his movie version of the life of Beethoven may truly be his greatest achievement, his masterpiece.
If you love Beethoven's music and you long for movies that tell an interesting story with passion, heart, truth and honesty (unlike most of todays movies), I highly recommend this movie to you.
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A great film with a moving plot: Two young women, his pupils, are in love with him. Thérèse de Brunsvik's love remains unrequited, even though she and Beethoven are engaged for years; Juliette Guicciardi, whom Beethoven loves but who marries a Count, regrets her decision, but by then he and Thérèse are engaged...

Alas, all fantasy (no wonder, made in 1936 when almost nothing was known about Beethoven's Only Beloved: Josephine! (2nd ed.): First English Biography of the Only Woman Beethoven Ever Loved (see also Beethoven and His "Immortal Beloved" Josephine Brunsvik: Her Fate and the Influence on Beethoven's OEuvre).
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For Beethoven fans this is a unique and classic addition to the collection. Gance delivers a different portrayal of the great Maestro, occasionally happier, and not necessarily resembling " to a t " Ludwig Van's facial features. Like other Beethoven movies it touches on the " true to life" Immortal Beloved" mystery etc.. but all very reasonable and acceptable. There are very moving passages and the tears will be rolling. Even though It is a talking picture it has the feel of a silent movie, which fits perfectly the deaf Maestros sad situation. The first time I saw the movie it didn't grab me, maybe because I wasn't paying attention or being a modern viewer I had not acquired a taste for the atmosphere and pace of a very old flick. The second time however ( three years later ) it "bit me". Perfect casting with legendary actors of their era, Harry Baur, and a very young Jean Louis Barrault. Inspired visionary direction by Gance.
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