I just watched one of the most amazing movies that I have ever seen: the excellent Copying Beethoven.
I have always been deeply fascinated with the genius that is Ludwig van Beethoven. I grew up listening to my mom playing his pieces on our piano, and have enjoyed the complexity and overwhelming emotion found both in the observation and participation of his immense talent. In particular, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony has something that resonates in my soul like nothing else ever has.
The second movement (Molto vivace – Presto) has such passion and raw power and ferocity and strength and beauty and peace!!! It is everything that life should have in it, and I am amazed at Beethoven’s ability to make it all fit together and make sense in one place. Every time I hear it, it just overwhelms me with emotion. Watching Ed Harris’s spectacular portrayal of Beethoven as he was conducting the premiere of the Ninth Symphony, I was just absolutely overjoyed beyond words to hear the second movement kick in and finally get some visual confirmation of the pure joy and power and energy that I’ve always felt deep in my soul when listening to it. I was smiling and laughing and air-violining… just such power… amazing. And seeing the expression on Beethoven’s face as he was pouring his very soul into the playing of his music… pure, intense joy.
And then the fourth movement… which is what most people (who are even aware of such things) think of when the Ninth Symphony is mentioned… WOW. I’ve always preferred the second movement over the fourth movement, and quite honestly, I never really grasped what Beethoven was doing with it. Of course, it helps not that the fourth movement played such a prominent role in the deeply disturbing Clockwork Orange. But what I didn’t realize was what ground-breaking stuff Beethoven was doing at the time! A chorale and two tenors in a Symphony–it was unheard of until Beethoven dared to do it. And then to have them do absolutely nothing but stand on-stage for the entirety of the performance preceding their parts in the fourth movement–it must have seemed absolute insanity! But. But… when the chorale joins in in the fourth movement… the incredible power and beauty of it absolutely brought me to tears. It was as if the countless multitudes of angels of heaven had joined in at that very moment and the eye and ear could scarcely take it in. And the effect that it had on those in the crowd on screen was exactly what I felt: pure emotion and power and beauty.
The funny thing is that just a few hours earlier today, I sat through another Ed Harris movie (okay, it was a Nicolas Cage movie), National Treasure: Book of Secrets. As far as movies go, it was a pretty good ride. Laughs and suspense and danger and all the right ingredients. A nice, clean family movie, and I applaud it for being that. And Ed Harris did a very nice job in it.
But Ed Harris’s performance in Copying Beethoven is something extremely special. It was obvious that he gave his whole heart and soul to the part. I don’t think I would have known that the actor playing Beethoven was Ed Harris, quite honestly–and in my book, that’s exactly how it should be. Tremendously done, Mr. Harris. I have complete respect for your abilities after seeing this movie.
In the special features section of the DVD, Agnieszka Holland said something to the effect that seeing people who have never listened to classical music crying from seeing and hearing Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony made all the work worthwhile. Well, ma’am, I have loved classical music all my life and your film brought joy, tears, and some of the biggest smiles to my face that you could imagine. I’d say you did a darned good job.
As far as notoriety and high visibility go, I rather doubt that you’ll
be seeing a lot of raving reviews of Copying Beethoven. As a matter of fact, I kind of doubt you’ll find it mentioned much. Its style and
pace and camera work and subject matter and such are very much not the taste of today’s
huddled masses. It lacks too many of the normally-prescribed Hollywood
ingredients to make it palatable for our darling MTV generation.
But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t see it. =;)