Amadeus Study Guide

Milos Forman's film, Amadeus, was critically acclaimed and a commercial success upon its release in 1984. At the 57th Academy Awards, the film won eight of the eleven nominations that it received. The wins included Best Director, Best Actor (F. Murray Abraham), and Best Picture. In total, the film won fifty-five awards from domestic and international award ceremonies. Apart from dominating a series of award ceremonies, the film had another impact: it generated public interest in Mozart.

Despite the film's success with both critics and audiences, there were some dissenting voices. Pauline Kael from the New Yorker disliked the film's portrayal of Mozart. Other dissenters criticized the lack of historical accuracy in the film. They felt that very few aspects of the film carried any semblance of truth. They disliked the fact that the film furthered the myth that Salieri had a role in Mozart's death. They also disliked the fact that the film depicted Mozart as only having one son with Constanze, whereas the couple had two sons in reality.

Peter Schaeffer, who wrote the play from which the film is adapted and who also worked with Milos Forman to convert the play into a script, publicly answered the dissenters. In an essay published in 1984 in the magazine, Film Comment, Schaeffer asserts that his purpose for both the play and the film is not historical accuracy, but rather entertainment. He sought to write a story that created as much drama as possible. The essay also highlights Schaeffer's working relationship with Forman.

The two men isolated themselves from the world for four months to work on the script. At the end of the collaboration, Schaeffer had only kind words to say about both Forman and the script. It was a learning experience for both men: Forman had to acquaint himself with classical music, and Schaeffer, a playwright, had to acquaint himself with a new medium. Despite the wonderful results of his collaboration with Forman, Schaeffer makes it clear in his essay that he does not want the film to have sequels. He also does not want the work to be converted to other media.