Saturday, August 18, 2007


COPYING BEETHOVEN is an insulting film on every level. Everything from its very concept to the minutiae of the acting performances offends the viewer. At worst, the writers lift scenes wholesale from the brilliant AMADEUS. The theft is all the more offensive because they have taken a work that is subtle, sophisticated and brilliantly executed and turned it into something crude and, at times, laughable.

The film opens with a young woman in a carriage rushing to the death-bed of a famous composer in Vienna. Not Constanze to Mozart, but a young composition student called Anna Holtz (Diane Kruger) rushing to the bed of Ludwig van Beethoven (Ed Harris.) There are some touching words. Sadly, they do not touch us because we are not yet involved in the story and do not yet empathise with the characters

We then switch back in time. An even younger Anna Holtz is sent to be Beethoven's copyist: to transcribe his hastily written scrawl into clear notation that can then by copied for all the musicians who are about to premiere his ninth symphony. Ed Harris' Beethoven takes on the vulgar mannerisms of Shaffer/Hulce's Mozart - mooning the prudish copyist and farting through her work. Harris' accent is also uneven. Kruger's is merely jarring, as is the entire concept that a young woman would have the liberty to attend a composer alone in his apartment or that she would dare "correct" LVB's work or that he would have her conduct his symphony covertly, but then bring her onto stage! (And no, Kruger is NOT convincing in the pivotal conducting scene.) The whole concept is as laughable as the excruciatingly embarassing "wash me" scene.

As the drama progresses we meet an under-used Matthew Goode as Anna's doting but uncomprehending boyfriend and an under-used Phyllida Law as Anna's Mother Superior aunt. Joe Anderson (
BECOMING JANE) over-acts horribly as Beethoven's scrounging but sadly oppressed nephew Karl.

LVB arrogantly proclaims to be the commanded by God to compose, making Anna God's secretary. Anna, suffering from another vicious attack from LVB, questions her relationship with God in a scene that echoes Salieri's conversations in AMADEUS - why have you given me the talent but not the opportunity replaces why have you given me the desire but not the talent. And then, in a final act of "inspiration", writers Christopher Wilkinson and Stephen J Rivele (ALI, NIXON) directly quote the Salieri-Mozart death-bed composition scene. There is even the same use of words: "I have you."

What is left to praise in this wishy-washy vulgar film? Well, in an era of DV cinema, Ashley Rowe's superb cinematography is to be praised, as is Alex Mackie's editing and Paul Ghirardani & Lorand Javor's art direction. But absolutely everything else is a shameless quotation from a far better film.

COPYING BEETHOVEN was released in the US in autumn 2006 and has since been on global release. It is currently on release in Belgium and the UK. It is also available on Region 1 DVD.

1 comment:

  1. I agree 100% with your review about the movie. LvB's real biography is immensely interesting... I don't know why people want to make up stuff in movies. I hated this movie too.