Dear Immortal Beloved,
What is it about you that sticks with me days after you impress your story upon me like paints applied to blank canvas? Is it the impeccable period work or the tightly woven reverse story? What about the very compelling and less than complimentary portrayal of the mighty Ludwig Van Beethoven?
Upon further reflection it is all these components and more, and they achieve the rarified condition that the maestro mentioned directly in the film. When the music is composed and performed well it allows the listener to know what the composer felt inside his head when the music was composed. It is a powerful premise, and writer-director Bernard Rose delivers so many possibilities that his conclusions feel right and true.
As we take up with the beginning of this tale, Beethoven has passed away and after the city turns out in somber revery, it falls to his secretary to exercise his final will and testament. When it is discovered that he left everything at the last minute to his immortal beloved, it is secretary Anton’s quest to unearth who she is. When he begins with the first of the three most likely candidates, we are introduced to Gary Oldman’s Beethoven. Almost immediately it is clear that he is a terse, intemperate and impatient genius. Yet virtuosity is certain from the get go. He really is genius and it is a tour de force portrayal by Oldman. He walks the fine line of despicable but identifiable character that you can’t help but like or feel for. As we journey through his time with Giulietta Guicciardi, we are gingerly exposed to his personal hell of being one of humankind’s greatest musical composers and doing most of it while deaf. When you see him lay his head down on one the cutting edge piano’s of the day just to hope to pick some vibration while his fingers play a passage flawlessly, it is as wrenching as it is profound.
But then, it’s not long before it sinks in just how all his playing and composing truly is profound. The analogy that comes to mind is if you were a master painter and at one point as a young man you became color blind yet still remembered every color and hue so well that you could still paint it properly with only seeing it in grey scale. Now with that said, this is the impact that Director Rose and actor Oldman captured. As he spends time with of the succession of women, his torment is so vivid and corporeal, that the joys and pleasures he finds in life are fleeting. Even when he composes and masterpieces are born, it seems almost as it was a small thing. Even the raising of his son is a scar on his soul. Yet he continues on. In the end when the final lady least expected is unveiled as the beloved and the pain and loss of it all washes over me, my heart breaks for him but it is also made whole again when I realize that no matter what, his ardor could never be taken away from him, and as precious as it was to him, she was able to know it in the end, even after the fact of his life.
Being a film lover with a soul on my sleeve I hold close all that the film did not say – and as with great film so much is left to ponder – that not only do I honor what he achieved, I honor his passion and spirit to reach into himself and with his genius hold up his life to enrich our species for the rest of all time. To the muse I bow also in reverence for the inspiration you offer genius.
Bravo Immortal Beloved and Bravo Beethoven!