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on March 23, 2016
It's probably been almost 20 years since I first/last saw IMMORTAL BELOVED on VHS, but it made enough of an impression on me to have remembered it all these years. As a pianist and classical music lover, it should come as no surprise that Beethoven is one of my favorite composers, having written some of the greatest works in the repertoire. Ergo, this film, which combines two of my great interests (history and music), is one of my favorites. By no means is it perfect or, to be honest, historically accurate (the film's central conceit mostly), but it paints an interesting portrait of a tortured artist. The premise behind the film, faulty though it may be, is that Beethoven, upon his death, left his entire estate to an "Immortal Beloved," and Schindler, his secretary, spends the bulk of the film going around to find out who this mysterious person is. Thus, Beethoven's story is told in flashbacks by people who knew him, not unlike the similarly themed AMADEUS (although this film is decidedly less comical). As such, we only get fragmentary glimpses into who Beethoven was a person. However, Gary Oldman makes up for this narrative/structural issue by giving a very humanistic portrayal of someone, who by many accounts, was very difficult to get along with. And by the end of the film, with the central question (sort of) answered, we have reached a deeper understanding of what drove and motivated him, regardless of the historical accuracy of what we have seen. From a technical perspective, Bernard Rose put together a film that is beautiful to behold, with exquisite period detail and cinematography. The score is composed entirely of Beethoven music, and I thought that his more well-known pieces were put to good use in various scenes. In particular, his Pathetique Sonata and Choral Symphony were quite moving in the context of the film. Finally, everyone in the cast gave excellent performances, but especially Gary Oldman, who disappeared into his role like he always does. His vocal delivery did have shades of Count Dracula (at least in terms of register), but it really wasn't too much of an issue. Ultimately, IMMORTAL BELOVED is a sumptuous period drama which, although playing with the facts, provides some keen insights into artistry and the passions that compel us.
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on January 3, 2017
If you haven't seen this movie, find a way to watch it. Whether you just break down and buy the blue-ray or stream it somewhere, this is a memorable movie to watch. Gary Oldman's performance was by far the best he's done, second to Dracula. Not to mention, I have never seen a superbly done historical drama done by anyone else. It is intense and mind blowing to watch his performance as Ludwig.

If you watched this back when you were in high school, or as a freshman music major or arts major... rewatch it. When you become old enough to truly appreciate Beethoven, you will absolutely be stunned by this movie.
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on June 15, 2015
A great movie to get a glimpse into Beethoven's life. The movie takes the great artist as an inspiration, the great composer that was deaf. You get glimpses into what might have motivated some of his strangest behavior.

Ultimately what the movie is selling is a great setting, a great character, some great acting, and a fantastic story that takes great liberties with history.

What the movie does well is indicate why Beethoven might have been so affected by Napoleon's change from republican to emperor. It also gives a sense of what it must have been like to earn a living as a talented musician through the lens of the different appointments Beethoven had during the course of the film, modestly portrayed as brief romantic attachments to women who would be eventually wed to gentlemen of their own social rank.

The movie does not give us such a stark portrayal of Beethoven's reputed ego as say, "Copying Beethoven," but it does give a healthy enough dose before explaining it away as a misplaced and star-crossed romanticism.
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on June 5, 2016
After his brother Casper past away, Ludwig sought and was appointed the legal guardian of his nephew Karl. Taking the custody from the distraught mother Johanna van Beethoven, Ludwig spent all his energy teaching Karl to become an accomplished virtuoso like himself. Karl did not have an interest nor the inclination to follow in Ludwig's footsteps. During those five futile years, Ludwig didn't write or compose any new material. A waste of time and effort and huge source of disappointment and frustration for Karl and Ludwig. Although Ludwig expressed animosity toward Johanna, he may have felt guilt for taking her son from her, because he bequeathed his entire estate to her.
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on May 23, 2015
"Immortal Beloved" is one of Gary Oldman's best performances and one of my favorite films. As Ludwig Von Beethoven he portrays more than a temperamental maestro, but a man who is isolated from the music he loves and the world around him because of his deafness, which explains his increasingly erratic behavior as he ages. The film may not be an accurate historical documentary on Beethoven's life, but it's engaging, beautifully filmed, and sexy without being smutty, not to mention the fact that Gary Oldman looks great in Napoleonic period clothing. If you enjoy historical romance with the best soundtrack imaginable then "Immortal Beloved" is for you!
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on December 2, 2015
Very artistic production with a unique theory on who was Beethoven's Beloved. Hard to check the facts on this one as the documentation on his life supports other theories. It made me read the acclaimed biography of Beethoven by Maynard Solomon, which is reflective of his troubled life, and conflicts with his abusive father. The movie blends the story of his life with his music performed by Georg Solti with the London Symphony Orchestra. Oldman is superb in selecting the highly emotional musician, who worked hard at developing his own style after pandering to that of his aristocratic sponsors. Rossellini is ever charming with the smile of her own mother, Ingrid Bergman. The other cast members include English and Czech actors reflecting the spirit of the times.
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VINE VOICEon April 18, 2008
Eulogy delivered by Franz Grillpazer in the Wahring Cemetery at the Maestro's funeral:

Ludwig van Beethoven, the man who inherited and increased, the immortal fame of Handel and Bach of Haydn and Mozart is now no more.

He was an artist. And who will stand beside him? He was an artist. And what he was, he was only through music.

The thorns of life had wounded him deeply. So he held fast to his art even when the gate through which it entered was shut. Music spoke through a deafened ear to he who could no longer hear it. He carried the music in his heart.

Because he shut himself off from the world, they called him hostile. They said he was unfeeling and called him callous. But he was not hard of heart.

It is the finest blades that are most easily blunted, bent or broken. He withdrew from his fellow man after he had given them everything and had received nothing in return. He lived alone because he found no second self.

Thus he was. Thus he died. Thus he will live for all time.

***

Immortal Beloved is a film that deeply affected not only the course of my life, but also the quality. Yes, I was very much aware of Beethoven before seeing this movie and I had heard the bulk of his music being an active listener of classical music and a student performer. But after seeing the dramatization of some of the more "stormy" and "troubling" portions of his life, played aptly by Gary Oldman, in this lavish production for the modern audience, I came away with an even deeper understanding of not just this man's music, but his contribution for all of us, music as a whole and music as something alive.

Mstistlav Rostropovich, now deceased and much missed, stated that he felt that Beethoven and Mozart did not die, that yes, they still exist -- even if on a subatomic level, and primarily because of the legacy of the music and the immense amount of love that the world has for them and always will. Thus, the music keeps them alive with every new student at the piano, violin or cello.

This Epic Masterpice opens, surprisingly, with a vividness that is reminiscent in films like Dr. Zhivago, Lawrence of Arabia, Spartacus or Ben Hur and drops you into this now vanished historical Vienna like a fly on the wall and is done so well, one might just believe that it actually is Vienna. The swelling sound of the `Missa Solemnis' in the background is yet another example of Beethoven's genius to create something new, rather than re-interpret the Stabat Mater as was traditionally done by all his predecessors. Most of the film was actually shot in the Czech Republic which had been almost forgotten by the process of modernization. Street lights, payphones, stoplights, road signs, power lines, television antenna - you name it. This is also the same location where they had filmed the much hyped and beloved `Amadeus', and for the exact same reason and a whole decade earlier.

As blasphemous as this might sound to some, it is my contention that Ludwig van Beethoven is probably the most influential and important living being that has ever graced our people. In one thousand, five thousand, ten thousand years from now, as abstract of an idea as that is to some, young children will still be setting down at pianos to learn his sonatas, his symphonies and his Fur Elise. His work will be mainstay in the progress of mankind. I will save any and all comment about Jesus Christ, as that is a conversation for another forum. But the unfortunate, but struggling truth about religion, is that it is not as equal to all of us as music is. A Hindu family or a Buddhist family, for example, with no desire for Christianity may never experience the Bible, but they'll happily play `Sonata Quasi una Fantasia' in their living rooms and fully enjoy the work for what it is. For these reasons, Herr Beethoven will live on forever and influence billions more of us in the many years to come, thus enriching the human experience where the words of our prophets may fall deafly or unheard.

The stigma that seems to follow this film, from reading all the reviews online that came out during its release, the reviews on Amazon, the comments on IMDb, is that people bemoan that it is a Hollywood production. Probably in time, this stigma will fade, as the unpopular machine that Hollywood is today, won't last. Bernard Rose is a wonderfully knowledgeable and passionate Director and musician who labored over the idea of this film, wrote the screenplay and orchestrated its creation. The stigma that this film is a Hollywood production and that it misses the mark on Beethoven's life is not just grossly unfair, but inaccurate. People often comment that `Amadeus' is a better film when they talk about 'Immortal Beloved', I guess because they are equally two movies about famous composers. But the real truth is that `Amadeus' is a fictionalized version of a stage play titled `Mozart & Salieri'. 'Immortal Beloved' is historically rich and a close and accurate portrayal of the events of Beethoven's life and the lives of those that he was closest to.

Joahnna ter Steege plays the part of Johanna Reiss / van Beethoven who Bernard Rose believes, beyond a shadow of a doubt, is the actual `Immortal Beloved' of the very illustrious and now famous love letters that were found after his death. Without going into detail about why he felt this way, I'll just say that 'obsession' had a lot to do with it. `Beethoven's Letters' is an excellent source book for anyone interested in reading his personal letters in their complete and translated glory. Ivory Tower academians seem to disagree with Rose about his choice, but most of those that disagree, all seem to have books that they're pushing about some other woman that you may, or may not have heard of.

Also to note, most of those that disagree with Bernard Rose, take him to be a novice, a buffoon and a bounder on the subject of Ludwig van Beethoven and all typically attack him as a non-musician who has little to no knowledge of the composer. They also seem to be in lock-step about how he egregiously gives our beloved, but ugly hero the Hollywood treatment. One needs to just listen to the incredibly informative and very telling Director's Commentary buried within the disc to learn that this is not the case in the slightest. You'll not only come to learn that Bernard Rose has been a fervent musician since childhood, but also incredibly well-read on the subject of the Maestro.

Some of my favourite scenes in the movie involve the character of Anton Schindler, Beethoven's secretary and friend, also played wonderfully by Jeroen Krabbe. Jeroen was actually called upon to originally play Beethoven in this, but gracefully stepped aside when he learned that Gary Oldman was successful in being cast. A tear usually wells up in my eyes when I hear the Largo from `The "Ghost" Trio' played in the garden, which is by far my favourite Beethoven piece and close to being one of my favourite music pieces of all time.

I guess it must be noted that Anton Schindler, who, before his own death in 1864, published the first 'large volume biography' of Herr Beethoven in 1840. Schindler was unfortunately accused of white-washing history for the sake of hiding his friends vice and licentious behaviour. Thankfully, enough information survived to paint a better picture, but regarding Schindler's text, one shouldn't throw away the baby with the bath water.

The use of multiple narration should also be noted. It's wonderful to hear all of the main characters, including the aging Hotel Frau, Nanette Streicherová, warmly and richly recounting their portions. All weaving such an enthralling and engrossing tale that you just can't look away. I must also note, that Frau "Striecher", as he spelt it, was a person who Beethoven had much correspondence with through the years and considered a friend. I think the narration is something that hardly ever gets mentioned regarding this film, but film narration is a tricky beast that is difficult to pull off and often fails. The writing here does this medium justice and is seamless in 'Immortal Beloved'.

I will admit that the first time I saw this in the theatre, I was brought to tears multiple times. Consequently, when I purchased the DVD, I was equally moved on multiple occasions by so many aspects of this film that they're just to dense to list. Of this, I will spare you.

I have included the eulogy in the beginning of the review, as I believe it is an integral portion of information when understanding the life of Beethoven. It is no mistake or mystery that Bernard Rose puts this at the very beginning as well, because if you listen carefully to the text, the intonation and timing of Jeroen Krabbe's delivery of it, you learn the intent and the real story that Rose is about to unfold for you. This is a real masterpiece of filmmaking in every sense of the phrase and will hold the spot as the most memorable film about Beethoven for some time to come. It will take a strong performance to best it.

If Bernard Rose chose Franz Grillpazer's eulogy as the theme to `Immortal Beloved', which does seem to be the case, I don't think that we can slight him for this, as history has now documented the truth that Anton Shindler's Beethoven is imagined, while Grillpazer's flawed, tormented and misanthropic friend once lived and breathed. I don't think it's inappropriate for Bernard to have made this choice, as he has been castigated for, simply because - Grillpazer was a friend and an acquaintance, he was a neighbor and a roommate, he was someone who had casually listened to Beethoven play (a fact that destroyed their friendship) and someone who had discussed operatic collaborations with the Maestro as well.

I wouldn't take Franz Grillpazer's words as the gospel, but I would come to assume that they were accurate from his point of view, from the point of view of history and also heartfelt.

Having read almost every biography on Beethoven printed in English, I find Bernard Rose's Beethoven incredibly plausible and at least true to the spirit and temperament of Beethoven (and may I say, also in fact). The idea that he never chased a half-naked woman because he was "a prude" is absurd. Yes, he was a prude, but he was also known to be lecherous and doting when it came to women, he would most definitely chased half-naked women anywhere. Read Maynard Solomon's Beethoven, or his essays and then read Thayer's Life of Beethoven, a two volume set, and you'll see a vast difference. Perspective and personal bias are always inescapable.

This is probably one of my top three favourite films of all time. Thanks, Bernard.

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
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on March 2, 2017
Loved it.
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on November 22, 2012
Immortal Beloved is a great movie -- if you know little of Beethoven's life and have never read a biography about him. Gary Oldman does a convincing job of playing the deaf composer, and the use of the maestro's music is well done.

The screenwriters and director, however, in the name of artistic license, paint the young Beethoven as a Liszt-like romantic rake when by all reports he was a total klutz with woman, filled with Puritanical notions square even during his lifetime (1770-1827). Worse, they concoct the bizarre notion that the Immortal Beloved was Johanna (his brother Caspar's wife), and that Beethoven's nephew, Karl, was his biologic son.

Pure nonsense. Historical scholars today favor Anthonie Brentano, a woman with four children with an unhappy marriage to a nobleman, or Josephine Brunsvick as the Immortal Beloved (yes, the missive exists, although the real letter, unlike the movie letter, is filled with ambivalence). But Johanna? The woman who's life Beethoven ruined? Impossible to swallow. The more one learns about the multiple indignities Beethoven showered upon poor Johanna, the less one can buy this.

The writers base the movie plot on this fragile idea. Knowing the facts of Beethoven's life, a life amazing enough as is, what with his deafness, his crazed pursuit of his nephew, and his ability to overcome all obstacles, bounce back, and create masterworks -- all these things make you wonder, why couldn't the writers figure out how to dramatize the truth, instead of spinning a web of soap opera nonsense?

I guess we can all give a collective sigh and say, "Oh, that's Hollywood for you," and go on to the next movie without a second thought. The tantalizing thing is...the moviemakers came close to creating a masterpiece here. So close. But rather than take the challenge on, rather than figure out how to tease out on film the psychological complexities driving Beethoven's genius and near-madness -- his deafness and his horrific father (both powerfully shown in the film), and his physical unattractiveness and inability to relate to women (ignored or down-played) -- they take the easy way out with a sensational, overly romantic plot that ultimately rings false.
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on February 19, 2006
A previous reviewer wrote: "How would you feel if someone opened your mind to something in an entirely new light? You never saw it that way until they showed you." in relationship to music of this kind, I dare say that it was just short of true magic. That kind of music held an almost voodoo like power when herd. As I watched the reaction of some of the women in the movie reacting to this kind of music, I could get closer to the type of power, the godlike persuasion, if you will, that some composers had at the time. Have you ever see the old National geographic videos? that showed the reaction of native peoples to orchestral music? It was of great awe - god like and powerfully magical. And please don't remind me the upper crust society was used to it. Not by a long shot. This movie, lets you experience that quality. Yes, you can indulge over the point that the women in the movie "loved" the composer, But it is apparent, to some that they are in love with the sound that his music provided. The power of that music, if you had never herd that kind of music very much might very well let you interpret a deep awe.

Having seen Immortal Beloved, I have a much stronger respect for Beethoven, as well as his contribution to this world...his music.

In My Never To Be Humble personal opinion...a masterpiece. It affects me to such a degree every time I experience it, I always aware of a deep energy penetrating emotion on my face. How would you feel if someone opened your mind to something in an entirely new light? You never saw it that way until they showed you. This is what the film does for me. Rich cinematography, Some untouched primal awe was awakened in me as if we could hear that music the way they would have herd it back in Beethoven's day. A tragic love story in the best sense.

I personally feel these people are just missing out on a great film and great storytelling at its best. But you be the judge...see Immortal Beloved. I guarantee you'll never be able to listen to Beethoven's music quite the same way ever again.
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