January 12, 2006


I just watched Immortal Beloved, which, if I'd ever seen the trailer, I'd never have done. There are three reasons I don't particularly like Beethoven. One is that his work is too ponderous and grandiose for my liking. The other two reasons are Ode to Joy and the Fifth Symphony, which are so ponderous and grandiose that they demanded to be recognized as separate reasons. It's that bad. The theatrical trailer for Immortal Beloved is a swashbuckling riot, a disorderly romp of smashed chandeliers and ripped bodices set to the most overwrought bits of the Goddamn Fifth Symphony.

Fortunately, the movie is nothing like that. The story is a tragic one of unfulfilled love, with Gary Oldman as a Beethoven who is in turns brilliant and pitiable. One of the loveliest scenes in the whole thing is set to Moonlight Sonata in D, which as far as I'm concerned he could have written and taken the rest of his life off, his great work completed. It's a sad, long, slow and somewhat mysterious movie, and I with my short attention span and need for happy endings liked it anyway. The movie framework -- almost all retrospective, but hardly chronological -- spools out the story in a way that's much more compelling than just telling it would have been.

To be fair, I don't think it's very historical. I'm not sure one man could have ripped that many bodices in one lifetime, really. But the hell with history when there's dramatic fiction to be had! Besides, it has Gary Oldman. The hell with history when there's Gary Oldman to be had.

Posted by dianna at January 12, 2006 02:13 PM

Ah, but how do you feel about A Fifth of Beethoven?

Posted by: Zach S. at January 12, 2006 05:38 PM

Uncertain with an edge of suspicion and an inexplicable desire to cringe. Not entirely sanguine, in general.

Posted by: Dianna at January 12, 2006 06:28 PM

For myself, I'm a big fan of the Ninth, at least the first two movements. I'm okay with Ode to Joy, but I usually switch to something else before I get there. And I don't like the vocal version of the Ode to Joy in the fourth movement at all.

So you feel the Fifth is at least marginally improved by the addition of Disco?

Posted by: Zach S. at January 12, 2006 07:10 PM

I strongly suspect it is not. But I can't say for certain, since I can't recall off the top of my head what A Fifth of Beethoven sounds like. So I can only express my suspicion of the concept and not my opinion of the final product. The Goddamn Fifth Symphony itself, on the other hand, is fresh in my mind so I can accurately say how much I hate it.

Posted by: Dianna at January 12, 2006 08:28 PM

It's not on iTunes, and I doubt it's worth the dollar it would cost, in any case. The best I can find is a midi on this page. Apparently this was the number 1 song in America for a brief period in 1976, and was featured in Saturday Night Fever.

At least it's marginally better than A Night on Disco Mountain.

Posted by: Zach S. at January 12, 2006 08:55 PM