Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Immortal Beloved - 81%

Do you like classical music? Do you like Beethoven? Do you like tragic love stories? Do you like mysteries? Well you get them all in this film Immortal Beloved. I had watched this film sometime in 1998 and it is hard to recall why I had looked up the film in the first place. I do not actively seek out love stories in particular because I always thought those stories are better watched with a date. So it might have been my obsession with the Moonlight Sonata for a while that led my research to this film. It could also been Gary Oldman himself that drawn me to this film. Whatever the reason, I remembered that when I first watched it, it left a lasting impression. I loved it. I loved the way the story was told and structured. But a few years back, after encountering another brilliant film by the name of Citizen Kane, I have to admit that Immortal Beloved was somewhat discounted due to a similar structure that was employed. It also goes to show how ahead of its time Citizen Kane was.

So why this review now? I recently gave away the regular DVD of the film and I purchased a Blu-ray High Definition version of the film to replace. So re-watching this film on High Definition this time, allow me to watch it with a new perspective and also with a more objective eye after watching many more classic films - eg Citizen Kane. And now back to the movie. It starts with the death of Beethoven, and how his long time friend and secretary Anton Schindler discovering a letter that wills all his assets to a mysterious "Immortal Beloved". This mystery part is historically true, and scholars over the years have tried to debate and speculate who this immortal beloved of his might be. But what the final revelation provided by the director/writer of the film is debatable. There are many scholars who have disputed it, and watching the film, you might find some inconsistencies with Beethoven's behavior that contradicts the conclusion. But these might be quibbles that ultimately do not detract from the great performances by Gary Oldman, Jeroen Krabbe, and the wonderful female cast members.

The film is one of a tragic love story. A friend of mine once mentioned before, why are all good ones like these? Well, because it makes for a more dramatic story. Unrequited love always tug at the heart strings, and though I prefer a happy ending for my own life, I can understand why sometimes happy endings do not necessary make good cinema. Romeo & Juliet wouldn't be as compelling if they lived happily ever after. Liang Shan Bo and Zhu Ying Tai wouldn't be the "Love Eterne" if they didn't have such a dramatic ending. It is pure cinema, and Beethoven's music, Beethoven's death, Beethoven's letter, and Beethoven's love life, is good dramatic material.

Unfortunately, this film opened to mixed reviews in 1994 and didn't do very well at the box office - less than US$10million. I suspect it to be largely due to the marketing of the film. The poster doesn't do much to tell people what kind of a movie it was. In my opinion, they should have marketed the film as a "love story" and try to capture the women's crowd. If I had looked at the poster, I wouldn't have known it to be a film about Beethoven either. So do I recommend this film. Yes I do. So go find it and buy it. It deserves a second chance on video.

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