Immortal Beloved Review

The Film

Basically it seems that Beethoven was a bit of a cock. Arrogant, headstrong, unforgiving and given to almost casual cruelty to the ones he loved. It seems fair to say that Ludwig behaved rather badly during his adult life. Was his character caused by the loneliness of an artist misunderstood by the many, or was his distance and selfishness simply the result of being forced into alienation by his deafness?
For Bernard "Candyman" Rose, the best way to look into this man's nature is to take a leaf out of Welles' Citizen Kane in terms of device and structure. Here the identity of the unnamed "Immortal Beloved" of the great man's last will takes the place of Kane's "Rosebud". So begins an elliptical and episodic reconstruction of the composer's life where the mystery of the poor manners and venomous temperament is hypothesised on by those who knew him.

We learn of a mysterious woman and a missed assignation, and soon Jeroen Krabbe's former secretary is hearing from the women who loved his deceased master. And what women they are, the intoxicating Valerie Golina and the fallen noble of Isabelle Rossellini - surely one of them most be the love of Ludwig's life.
Or perhaps the lost love that so grieved the great composer was that of experiencing what he had created. Was the inability to hear what he had imagined the truly heartbreaking event which led to his humbling of his brother, and then his brother's widow. Was this separation from the beauty he had dreamt the reason he tried to live through his nephew, acquired as an heir through corruption and implacable hate.

This approach to the story of a great artist allows much rumination, but it also gives the spectator a more basic kind of mystery to solve and follow. You could forget that this film is an examination of great art with all the famous faces and the huffing and puffing of Oldman's portrayal. Similarly the offer of an easy resolution at the climax embraces a soapy notion of an unfortunate lover became bitter through events, rather than anything too taxing or complex in the way of enlightenment. I would have preferred ambiguity and less in the way of actors doing accents, but Rose's film is still braver and more intelligent than many a biopic and it dresses itself brilliantly in the musical clothes of its subject as well.
Immortal Beloved is entertaining. If you know nothing of European history, local politics, music or geography then you will still have an intriguing story that is dressed and mounted with great success. Like Rose's admirable horror films before it, his movie enjoys its audience's presence and I must recommend it as a fine old fashioned flick that elegantly tells the tale of a most unpleasant man.

Transfer and Sound

This standard def release is re-released for those not able to procure it's higher definition brother. It has a decent anamorphic presentation at 2.35:1 and possesses two elegant sound options along with optional English subs.

The image does look quite soft at times despite what looks like a strong blemish free print. The image is thankfully free from much filtering and the autumnal hues are shown well, even if some passages look too dark. Colours are occasionally smeared and some edges are overdone.
The 5.1 tracks include a nice clean DTS option and the more conventional Dolby Digital mix. I preferred the DTS for smoother reproduction of dialogue and music, but both do a fine job of putting the listener in the centre of the musical score. The sub woofer channels give a little life to the flashbacks of the Napoleonic conflict but otherwise have little to do. The subtitles are well rendered and easily read.

Discs and Special Features

No extras sadly, but this dual layer disc is about 85% used by the main transfer and this means a very healthy bit rate. The menu uses poster art to frame some scenes from the film and the options are simple to navigate


This is a fine entertainment that begs the question whatever happened to Bernard Rose?

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