Confession is an overt theme in the film. Salieri's narrative is a confession to Father Vogler. He confesses to Father Vogler the role he played in Mozart's death. Although Salieri frames the narrative in a way that is meant to garner sympathy, he does not shy away from telling Father Vogler the terrible actions that he took against Mozart. Furthermore, Constanze and Mozart confess a few things to Salieri throughout the film as their financial situation worsens. Salieri exploits these confessions to further his agenda of revenge.
One of the film's ironic moments takes place near the end of the film when a lonely Mozart asks Salieri not to leave him and Salieri tells Mozart that he will not leave him. It is a tender moment, but it is also ironic because Salieri is behind Mozart's alienation from Viennese society, Constanze, and Karl. Salieri makes sure that Mozart's operas get very few performances, and he spreads malicious rumors that cost Mozart valuable teaching opportunities. Salieri's actions also cause tension between Constanze and Mozart. He commissions Mozart for a Requiem; this death mass causes Mozart to physically and mentally deteriorate. In this state of deterioration, Mozart grows further apart from his wife, and she eventually leaves him.
The film is a male-dominated landscape, and various male characters compete against each other. Mozart, for example, insults and publicly humiliates Salieri many times. Upon meeting Emperor Joseph II, Mozart calls a piece that Salieri writes repetitive and simplistic, and improves the piece on the spot. Salieri retaliates in more covert ways. He employs a maidservant, Lorl, to spy on Mozart, and then uses the information he gains from her to sabotage Mozart's operas. Whereas Mozart performs his actions out in the open, Salieri is duplicitous throughout the film. Mozart is unaware of Salieri's various actions against him, and, as the film progresses, Mozart even begins to see Salieri as some sort of confidant. Salieri, unfortunately, is not Mozart's only competitor in the film. Count Orsini-Rosenberg and Kapellmeister Bonno, other influential musical figures in Emperor Joseph II's court, join Salieri's plot to sabotage Mozart's work. All three men's actions are driven by a strong sense of jealousy towards Mozart; Salieri, however, takes it to another level.
Characters in the film devote themselves to a variety of things. Mozart, for example, composes incessantly even as his body and mind deteriorate; he even works on a piece in his last hours. Salieri, on the other hand, decrees out loud his devotion to God and music every opportunity that he gets. Unfortunately, Salieri's two devotions come into conflict with each other as the film progresses; Salieri eventually breaks ties with God.
Similarly, Leopold and Constanze break away from Mozart, their subject of devotion, when they run into conflicts with him: Leopold abandons Mozart after failing to convince him to go back to Salzburg, and Constanze leaves Mozart when he continues to act erratic despite her best efforts.
Both Salieri and Mozart feel the need to assert their identities throughout the film. When the priest does not recognize either Salieri's work or Salieri, Salieri goes out of his way to assert his identity, and he continues to do so throughout the film. He takes great pride in talking to the priest about the position he held in Emperor Joseph II's court. Mozart also asserts his identity throughout the film. At the prince-archbishop's residence, for example, Mozart receives praise from the guests, and he opens the doors of the room where he just finished an argument with the prince-archbishop so that he can rub the adulation in the prince-archbishop's face. Furthermore, throughout the film, Mozart claims to be the best composer in the world, and he even attempts to forfeit a coveted position in order to maintain the pride that comes with such an identity. He refuses to apply for the opportunity to teach the emperor's niece because he feels that, as the best composer in Vienna, he should not be made to apply. He believes that the emperor should simply give him the position.
Both Salieri and Mozart suffer from madness over the course of the film. After being humiliated and insulted numerous times by Mozart, Salieri decides to take revenge against Mozart, and he quickly becomes obsessed with revenge to the point of madness. Even after Mozart dies, he still drives Salieri to madness: Salieri feels guilty for the role he played in Mozart's death, and the guilt eventually overwhelms him and causes him to land in an asylum. Mozart's madness is short-lived in comparison to Salieri's madness, but it is still potent. Mozart, who proves himself to be a persuasive speaker throughout the film, loses the ability to communicate in the midst of his madness -- a madness which is in large part due to Leopold's death, exhaustion, and failures in both the professional and personal landscapes. Salieri plays a role in each of these factors that contribute to Mozart's death. He torments Mozart by dressing in a costume that Leopold once wore to a party, he forces Mozart to work on a Requiem despite being aware of Mozart's weakened state, and he is the main cause of Mozart's failures in both the professional and personal realms.
Salieri rebels against God by trying to destroy Mozart, whom he views as God's instrument. His rebellion against God, however, leads to his own downfall: his role in Mozart's death torments him for decades until he lands in an asylum. Mozart also rebels in the film. He rebels against the prince-archbishop of Salzburg and Leopold: he does not return to Salzburg despite the prince-archbishop's order, and he marries Constanze without Leopold's approval. Mozart even challenges Emperor Joseph II of Austria. Mozart makes it apparent to the emperor that he is not happy with the emperor's suggestion to take a few notes out of his German opera. Mozart also undermines many of the emperor's bans. Constanze is another character in the film that rebels against authoritative figures. She argues with Leopold, and she meets Salieri in secrecy to show him Mozart's work when Mozart refuses to apply for the opportunity to teach the emperor's niece.
Amadeus Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Amadeus is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.