Monday, October 02, 2006

Character Depth - Antonio Salieri

This one comes to us from Ross Mahler (rmahler on TriggerStreet and is also an active participant in the revolution with his own blog Shares Dream World).

One of the first things that came to my mind, when you mentioned a study of character depth, was Antonio Salieri from Amadeus. Using Vogler the priest as a sounding board, we learn of Salieri’s contradictory nature in regard to his faith. He wavers between worshipping God and battling with him when he cannot fathom why the almighty would choose the obscene Mozart to be his instrument. When Salieri interacts with Katherina Cavalieri, the opera singer he adores (and later loses to Mozart), we get to see the impotence he feels when compared to Wolfgang. In his dealings with Mozart, we see Salieri’s astonishment at the man’s gifts, mixed with his jealousy and contempt for the same man. He both adores his idol and plans his demise. He commissions and then plots to steal Mozart’s requiem and pass it off as his own work, just to achieve Mozart’s level of fame – a project that ultimately destroys both men. He delights in his accomplishments, not unlike Shakespeare’s gloating Richard III, but at the same time, Salieri is so ravaged by guilt that he attempts to take his own life. In the end, he calls himself the patron saint of mediocrity. He simultaneously wrestles with his own inadequacies, guilt, faith, and ultimately with his own choice to live in infamy just so that he can achieve some small measure of immortality, like Mozart.


Mystery Man said...

Great job, Ross. I loved the phrase, "He both adores his idol and plans his demise." Beautiful!

LoveStrong said...

I love this example! The way this story is told throughout the film enhances our look at the varying layers of Salieri's character. He is both narrating (we see his retrospective views) as well as experiencing (we see his reactions). This allows for an even greater sense of his contradiction and his depth. Wonderful!

miriamp said...

I think the true testament to the depth of this character is when Danny Madigan tells Jack Slater (Arnold Schwarzenegger) in The Last Action Hero that John Practice (played by F. Murray Abraham) is a bad guy because he killed Mozart.

Mystery Man said...

Hehehe... I love ya, Miriam.

crossword said...

I always loved the way the Salieri character was portrayed. Sounds silly but I always thought that the actor F. Murray Abraham actually looked like Salieri also (at least in my mind's eye).

Alexander Pushkin wrote "Mozart and Salieri" and has Salieri say (to himself):

I have been chosen. I must be the one to stop him... What use is it if Mozart stays alive and reaches even newer summits yet? Will he uplift the art by doing so? No; it will sink again when he is gone. He leaves us no successor. What's the use in him? He brings us, like a cherub, certain songs of paradise, and afterwards when he has roused in us, us children of the dust, a wingless longing, flies away! So fly away! The sooner you do, the better.

Salieri chose to believe that he was doing everyone a favour, ignoring the fact that behind his action lay the true motive of base envy.

Pushkin wrote that in 1832... and the 1984 film captured that character essence very well.

Anonymous said...

Don't lose sight of the fact that everything discussed here is fiction. Salieri did not kill Mozart nor did he try to steal Mozart's requiem. It makes for a good story but unfortunately it also has ruined a great man's reputation.

Mystery Man said...

I'm sure everyone involved this project realizes this. If not, then they should be more cultured. Hehehe...

Thank you for that.


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