Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Amadeus: Confutadis Maledictus


Milos Forman’s 1984 hit Amadeus bases its narrative format on the Gospel account of the Prodigal Son, with the talented Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Tom Hulce) cast as the worldly and foolish prodigal and F. Murray Abraham’s Antonio Salieri as the unnamed second son who, seemingly obedient and faithful to his father, is eaten with jealousy at the love lavished upon the sinful prodigal.
It's easy to get caught up in the tension of the dueling musicians and overlook the most interesting character in the film:  God.  
God is what the film is about since it's called Amadeus which means "God's love."  The film is constructed to show how God loves, and, importantly, how God does not love.  
Joseph Lange's unfinished portrait of his brother-in-law, Mozart.
Mozart, dying in his bed, hums out the phrase, “Confutatis, Maledictus,” (“Confounded are the ways of the wicked”) and Mozart looks at Salieri and says, “Do you believe it, fire and brimstone?” and Salieri says, “Oh yes, let’s begin.” 
This is Mozart’s deathbed prophecy: “The curse you have tried to bring upon me will come upon you instead and you will be the one who fades into obscurity,” and that is exactly what happens, hence, God's Justice is an act of God's love.
Constanze (Elizabeth Berridge), the mediocre wife of Mozart, is the pivotal character:  she’s not pretty, intelligent, witty or accomplished in anything. And this is what Salieri and Constanze have in common, their mediocrity, but she overcomes it while Salieri sinks into it like quicksand. 
Constanze Weber Mozart as depicted by her brother-in-law, Joseph Lange.
Consider the beginning and end of the film: in the beginning, she and Mozart are rolling around on the floor and there’s the Pig Latin scene about “kiss my ass,” and it’s because of her that Mozart misses his queue.  At the end, Constanze holds Mozart, and in true Christian humility, she’s not “kissing his ass,” she’s washing his feet, she is being the help mate to him that their marriage vows bound her to be by helping him to get to heaven:  she forgives him and recognizes that she, too, needs to be forgiven.  Mozart dies with his eyes open and gazing up towards the sky, a symbolic gesture of Grace in final perseverance and, that this time, he didn’t miss his queue.
Constanze’s achievement is the greatest in the film: she forgives, amidst the pages of the greatest music ever written, God shows His greatest work, a soul in the state of Grace. We the viewers, however, are so taken up with the genius of the music, that we fail to notice God’s means of using Constanze as His instrument of Love and that, like Constanze, we too, are called to be God's instrument regardless of our lack of talents or our abounding talents.  The name "Constanze" means "firm of purpose" and her purpose was to be the wife of Mozart, and she was, to God's Glory as the Composer of the Symphony of Life, and we, his humble instruments
A facsimile sheet from the Requiem Mass 
in D Minor in Mozart's own handwriting.
It is located at the Mozarthaus in Vienna.
But Mozart, too, achieves a state of Grace when he confesses to Salieri, “I thought you did not care for me or my work” and asks Salieri to forgive him.  Salieri, however, fails to respond to God's Grace by "missing his queue":  Mozart doesn't need validation about the greatness of his work (but that's how Salieri responds because that's what Salieri wants from Mozart).  Mozart is looking for friendship and fellowship as his death creeps closer to him.  God's Justice exhibits itself even in this:  since Salieri failed Mozart in not providing him with friendship in this moment of Mozart's need, Salieri's valet (Vincent Schiavelli) at the very beginning of the film pounds on the door as Salieri is cutting his throat within the room, and the man says, "I won't come and visit you anymore!" and that a great court composer is reduced to relying on this rather uncouth man for companionship is a sign that no one comes to visit the once great composer and that he has essentially been abandoned.
Antonio Salieri by the painter Joseph W. Mahler.
Now, how God does not love.  God has answered all of Salieri's prayers, but it's not enough for Salieri:  he wants God to answer the prayers that he has not prayed (to make Salieri a better musician than Mozart, but Salieri never makes this prayer) and that is a way that God does not love.  The name "Antonio" means, "Praise God" and Salieri doesn't, he curses God and praises himself, even if the only praise he can give himself is that he's so mediocre, he should be their patron saint.
We know that Salieri is a wretch because the wheelchair he's rolled out in symbolizes his paralysis (think of all the paralytics mentioned in the Gospels); that his throat is slit and bandaged signals the paralysis of the vocal chords (he can't raise his voice to God in penance and prayer) and, lastly, he wears the medal awarded to him by an earthly king over his heart; his heart should be given to his Heavenly King, but isn't.
Salieri judges Mozart to be unworthy of the greatness of talent God has blessed him with, but the immaturity and even perversion of Constanze and Mozart at the beginning of the film is righted by the end; however, Salieri's bitterness and pride devours him as he himself devours sweets.
There is a great deal more that can be written of this incredible film... but this is only a blogspot.