Saturday, November 17, 2012

Amadeus: a cautionary tale of pride and lust

Last night Mariel and I watched Amadeus.  (I recommend parental preview before watching with your kids to verify that it meets family viewing standards.)  Last time I watched it I think I was fourteen or fifteen years old.  I got so much more out of it this time.  I think Mariel, who is fifteen, got more out of it too than I did when I was her age.  (Further evidence of her superior education...)

I want to talk about the fictional Salieri.  (He was a real person, but the storyline in Amadeus is fictional.) He was court composer to the Emperor of Austria-- the Holy Roman Emperor, as he was known.

In the movie, young Salieri has a strange idea.  He thinks humans are in a position to bargain with God.  He vows that if God will make him a great composer, he will be completely chaste, humble and industrious, glorifying God in all his music.

Well, the Lord does not choose to do that, although Salieri thinks at first that he has.

He thinks God has answered his vow by causing his father to die.  He calls the death a miracle that changed him from "a frustrated boy in an obscure little town" to a citizen of Vienna, the city of musicians.

Salieri seems to have always been a bit off.

Anyway, he becomes court composer and honors his vow of chastity, industry and humility.  He is a good composer, but not a great one.  He also admires Mozart, whom he had never met.  Then they do meet, and Mozart turns out to be a vulgar, low, common person.  Salieri is appalled.

Apparently Salieri has made some rules about who is allowed to be amazing and who is not and God is not honoring his standards.

He tries to deny the genius of Mozart's music, but he cannot.  Time and time again he is astonished at its brilliance.  God is allowing this disgusting man to create beauty.

(At this point in the movie I wonder why Salieri does not realize his own presumption and pride, but it is always easier to discover another's sin than to comprehend your own.)

Actually, Mozart seems to me a person with both good and bad points.  Sadly, his daemons overcome his virtues in the end.  This is a tragedy.  And Salieri, who is in a position to help, instead succumbs to his own daemons and participates in Mozart's demise.  This is also a tragedy.  Mozart trusts him to the end, although Mozart's wife most emphatically does not.  She sees Salieri's true heart early in the movie.

Blinded by envy, Salieri is never willing to be a part of the beauty by helping Mozart.  Far from helping, Salieri actually encourages Mozart's madness by pretending to be the ghost of his father, whom Mozart believes is tormenting him into writing a Requiem.  Mozart eventually dies.  Salieri ends his life in the madhouse.  The one gave himself up to decadence and the other to pride.

I wonder what the Lord had to say to them in Heaven?  "Welcome.  Your sins are forgiven.  I love you and died for both of you.  I grant you peace.  Torment yourselves no more, but live with me in glory."

Oh, that they had allowed themselves the enjoyment of the earnest of that inheritance on earth!

(My apologies for the several updates.  Darn these tenses!)

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