Mozart's "hideous, high-pitched whinny-giggle”: Behavior Portrayal in Amadeus (1984) in Correlation to Mozart's Musical Personas
Arts and Sciences
Forman's film Amadeus (1984) was criticized for its "crude" portrayal of Mozart as a "bumpkin with a hideous, high-pitched whinny-giggle" (Townsend, 1986). This presentation argues that, though Forman's portrayal of Mozart may have been exaggerated, it contributed to popular appeal because it overlapped with Mozart's widely discussed "emotional swings" (Keefe, 2015). His iconic giggle resonated with viewers because of how this personality side is contrasted with his dark and somber personality traits. In fact, literature from the 1940s often remarked on these extremes, using two lines from Goethe's Egmont (1788) : "Himmelhoch jauchzend, zu Tode betrübt" (heavenly joy, deadly sorrow).
I investigate these extreme mood swings in light of their links to the film's musical selections, heard in a diegetic or non-diegetic way. One scene from Amadeus depicting Mozart's optimism is the premier of Le Nozze Di Figaro (1786) through Antonio Salieri's interpretation of "Ah Tutti Contenti" (Amadeus, 1:48:20-1:49:35). Dramatic shifts in behavior are displayed in the Don Giovanni scene (Amadeus, 1:55:24-2:01:03) and where Salieri helps Mozart compose "Confutatis Maledictis" from the Requiem Mass (Amadeus, 2:37:06-2:43:25). By throwing light on Mozart's persona -- and the musical excerpts linked with it -- my hope is that viewers will view Amadeus with a more in-depth understanding and sense of awareness that Mozart's mesmerizing musical mood swings are the reason why Forman's Mozart portrayal is so convincing.
Lagunas, Rachael and Uhde, Katharina, "Mozart's "hideous, high-pitched whinny-giggle”: Behavior Portrayal in Amadeus (1984) in Correlation to Mozart's Musical Personas" (2022). Symposium on Undergraduate Research and Creative Expression (SOURCE). 1011.