Copying BeethovenReviewed By Erik Childress
Posted 11/10/06 00:02:50
“How do you create some of the most beautiful symphonies ever to grace mankind and be deaf at the same time?” Apparently Beethoven had a little suntanning board he strapped to his head to help with the vibrations. “Thanks for that, movie. What else you got? Not much, huh?” Once upon a time the composer had a young woman copying his works for the performing orchestras. “Keep going, movie, I’m listening.” Well, he had this great magnum opus called the ninth and a nephew who stole from him. “Is there love in the air?” Love of music. “So basically I should just pick up a CD and check out Wikipedia?” WHAT?! “You heard me, Steve Austin.”Ed Harris stars as the Ludwig, “Louie” (no kidding) to his friends or “The Beast” to those who have been yelled at by him. When he sends out for a new “copier”, he gets 23 year-old Anna Holtz (Diane Kruger), an ardant fan who is also well educated and still on the market thanks to life spent in a convent. During one of her first assignments she has the nerve to change one of Beethoven’s keys, but instead of lashing out at her, the (unresolved) suggestion that it was all a test shifts the beast into cub mode, thus beginning a respect and potential love beyond his music.
See, poor Beethoven in all his beastly outrage just wants to be loved. The nephew (Joe Anderson) whom he wants to see follow in his footsteps is really just a louse, using uncle for a few bucks and never returning the happiness he feels during a visit. Anna also isn’t in the market for Beethoven’s love, having gotten engaged to a wannabe engineer (Matthew Goode) hoping to get an “A” for his model bridge in a science fair. Neither of these subplots add anything but superfluous excuses to flesh out the time that Anna and Ludwig are not center stage and both wallow without any justifiable or laudable resolution.
The highlight of any Beethoven story other than a giant St. Bernard is naturally what he left to the world and the film’s biggest scene, the one to show any emotional connection at all, is a ten-minute creation of the Ninth Symphony’s debut. Bombastically beautiful, it should also carry the personal connection as Anna is forced into the pit to guide the maestro’s poor conducting skills. But the music is bigger than the two of them and every time director Agnieszka Holland cuts to Kruger waving her arms with her eyes closed, she’s less angel and more a blind person playing with the wind. Approaching this story as one of a man who couldn’t possibly live up to his art’s reputation could have been a way to go. Did we really need a doe-eyed woman of independence with lackluster musical aspirations as our mirror into how great Beethoven’s music was? I don’t care how many ships she launched with her face.Ed Harris is always an actor worth your attention and in less, more dour hands, the personification of Beethoven could have been a real self-serving drag. I can’t say for certain whether or not it’s the right interpretation of the man, but Harris (almost unrecognizable at first) certainly looks like he’s enjoying trying. “The world may not need another Beethoven, but it may need you,” he oddly tells Anna Holtz. Yeah, try finding the first symphony of that fictional concoction, and the movie treats their relationship so musty as if they are extremely self-conscious of how fake it is. Muses don’t all have to be flesh-and-blood, but you can’t just copy the final shot of Shakespeare In Love, especially when the music just reminds us how much we’d like to see Die Hard again.
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