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Copying Beethoven

Average Rating 3.5
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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Entertaining Music Education

    Perhaps others knew of history's music copyists, but I did not until seeing this outstanding film. The always superb Ed Harris is amazing as the brilliant Beethoven. His performance alone makes this "hidden" film a must-see. (You also will be compelled to purchase Beethoven's 9th on CD, if you don't have it already.) Wider distribution would have helped the movie too few were given the chance to see. It deserves 4.5 stars!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    A Superb Beethoven Bigraphy for the Laymen

    There are many things to be said in favor of director Agnieszka Holland's ('Europa, Europa', 'Total Eclipse', 'The Secret Garden', 'Olivier, Olivier') COPYING BEETHOVEN as written from fragments of questionable truths about the composer's final years by Stephen J. Rivele and Christopher Wilkinson: the film is gorgeous to look at for all its candlelit sepia scenes and of course a pleasure to hear as the musical score is primarily excerpts of Beethoven's music, and for the towering performance of Ed Harris as the deaf, dirty, cruel, grumpy, gross Ludwig van Beethoven. There have been sufficient biographies of the master to set the facts straight and this particular viewer has no problem at all with the tinkering of truth in creating a cinematic story that might help to explain the idiosyncrasies of the old master composers. It is a movie to enjoy: it is not a true story for all its attempts to recreate the life of the composer. In COPYING BEETHOVEN the premise is that the 'hard of hearing' Beethoven needs a copyist to help him complete his Symphony No. 9 due to a premiere of the work in four days time. Wenzel Schlemmer (Ralph Riach), Beethoven's usual copyist, is dying of cancer and arranges for the best pupil at the academy to assist Beethoven. That pupil happens to be a female, one Anna Holtz (Diane Kruger), who arrives at Beethoven's filthy apartment and struggles to convince the composer that she is worthy of the task. Anna is in love with a bridge builder Martin Bauer (Matthew Goode) and finds herself devoting her mind and attention to Beethoven rather than to Martin. Beethoven has never married and instead is in love with his nephew Karl (Joe Anderson) who refuses to follow his uncle's footsteps and instead mistreats him by constantly begging/stealing money form him to pay his gambling debts. So with this cast of characters Beethoven proceeds to complete his now famous 9th Symphony with Anna's help. Beethoven is to conduct the premiere but must depend on Anna (substituting for the errant Karl) to sit in the orchestra and give him cues. The performance is of course greeted with rapture, but Beethoven knows his output is not finished and the remainder of the film deals with his struggle to write the Grosse Fugue for his final string quartet, a piece the public (including Anna) loathes but one that Beethoven recognizes as the bridge to the next advance in music writing. Reduced to self pity, Beethoven dies, but Anna is going to carry the torch for her hero... The problems with watching COPYING BEETHOVEN that will make those who know the facts of the composer's life stumble are many: Beethoven was completely deaf in his latter years, unable to hear his music much less conversations with people Beethoven did not conduct the premiere of his 9th Symphony but instead sat deafly in the orchestra not even able to hear the score at which he stared the gentility with which Ed Harris' Beethoven shows is in sharp contrast to the rascally and despicable behavior of the real man. But those facts don't lend themselves to a good story for cinema and the writers and director were wise to realize this. So forgive the straying from the truth and settle back for a very entertaining if factually irresponsible 'biography'. The musical portions of the film are so truncated that the music suffers, but that matters little to the impression Beethoven's 9th, even in soundbites, has on audiences. If for no other reason, see this film for the bravura performance by Ed Harris. Grady Harp

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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