For most of the film, the genius composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart has no troubles at all. In fact, he’s so pleased with his success and unmatched musical acumen that the sheer thought of how good he is repeatedly manifests itself in a ridiculously amusing laugh crafted by actor Tom Hulce, in his Oscar-nominated role of a lifetime. But troubled waters begin to stir in Mozart’s life, at least according to this artistic account, once he becomes associated with the Italian composer Antonio Salieri (played by F. Murray Abraham). Salieri spends the entirety of the film — adapted by Peter Shaffer, who also wrote the original play — cursing God for having skimped on the talent portion of his genetic makeup and hating Mozart for his giftedness. In a sense, Salieri plays Mozart’s polar opposite, reserved, pious and classy, and once he joins Mozart’s inner circle — and becomes his shadow — makes the master’s demise inevitable.
And so, despite Mozart having been one of the most talented composers of his time, the late 18th century brought a decline in his stream of commissioned work. In the film, Salieri seizes the moment, befriending Mozart and basking in as much of Mozart’s excess fame as he can. Mozart’s untimely demise in 1791 at the age of 35 has widely been credited to poisoning by Salieri’s hand, though no historical evidence supports the rumor.
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