Saturday, August 4, 2007

Copying Beethoven

This is another movie that had been playing at the Athens Film Festival this year, but unfortunately, I was not able to see it. Now that it is out on video I was finally able to see what I was missing. I must say, that it was worth the wait. Copying Beethoven is a fictionalized account of the great composer's last years. It opens four days before the premier of his 9th symphony as a new transcriptionist is hired to help him. The only catch is that it is a woman. The movie follows Beethoven's relationship with her, and others around him, all while struggling with his deafness and madness.

Ed Harris completely immerses himself in the role of Beethoven, like his turn as Jackson Pollock. I would not have known it was him until the credits. This movie just enhances Harris as being one of the greatest modern actors. Diane Kruger stars as Anna Holtz, the transcriptionist. She is a promising composition student, stuck in a field and an era where almost no women succeed. She sees helping "The Beast" Beethoven as a magnificent opportunity, but struggles to handle his violent mood swings.

Joe Anderson contributed his talents in the slightly tacked on role as Karl Van Beethoven, Ludwig's nephew. He provides a counterpoint to Harris, but doesn't do much further the plot. Matthew Goode plays Martin Bauher, engineer and Anna's love interest. He represents the conflict between the new developing world (Beethoven calls him an "Iron Man"), and Anna's desires for music. Again, he does not play an overly important role, just to enhance the conflict between Anna and Beethoven.

The story flows very uniquely in this movie. Essentially, the movie climaxes during the premier of the 9th symphony. Agniezka Holland directs this over ten minute scene more exciting than almost any action movie I have ever seen. Anna helps Beethoven conduct from behind the scenes, with different parts ranging from epic to sensual. This is the turning point for almost every character in the movie, and certainly the climax. The only catch is that there is still 45 more minutes. This is a perfect supplement to Beethoven's views on music, when he tells
Anna that she must stop thinking about beginnings and ends, and just let the music flow. Spending so much time on the falling action and resolution is like and extended, and very subdued coda. This has even sparked arguments that the movie is not about Beethoven or Anna, but simply about the music. Like Beethoven himself, the characters are just vessels for the music.

This movie is by no means another Amadeus (one of my favorite movies of all time). It certainly does hold its own merit, however. Harris captures this role with astounding power, and Kruger plays Anna as a fragile product of the era, with immense hidden strength. Besides, the soundtrack alone is enough to enjoy this movie.

Watch the Trailer


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