May 16, 2007

Ode to Joy


In 'Immortal Beloved', when the young Schindler is asked by Beethoven, ‘What does music do?’, he ans, ‘It exalts the soul’, only to be scoffed & dismissed by the maestro. Beethoven retorts, 'Utter nonsense. If you hear a marching band, is your soul exalted? No, you march. If you hear a waltz, you dance. If you hear a mass, you take communion. It is the power of music to carry one directly into the mental state of the composer. The listener has no choice. It is like hypnotism.' And it is hypnotism indeed that the film achieves. To say that the music is brilliant would be banal – but of course. What's imp is that the pieces are not chosen simply because they happen to be famous. The always complement the action & emotions on screen. Both haunt the viewer long after the film has ended.


There’s no particular reason to blog abt IM save to talk abt a scene that seems to depict for me all that is best, worth striving for & rare in a man-woman relationship. During one of his recitals, a completely deaf Beethoven is confused & gives wrong instructions to his orchestra. The music turns discordant & as the audience starts to laugh & jeer at him, we can see the rage, anguish & terrible helplessness that were Beethoven’s lifelong companions, qualities which, frankly speaking, disabled & distanced him further away from his fellow men than his deafness. Openly ridiculed, he shouts repeated instructions to the accompanists who have now abandoned any attempts at playing & are equally disappointed.


From amidst this jeering, laughing crowd, arises the Countess Anna Maria Erdody (played with remarkable restraint by Isabella Rossellini). Using a cane, she limps her way to Beethoven, takes his arm & gently leads him away. This is the first time the 2 have set eyes on each other & no words r required.


Her thoughtful understanding of the composer’s torment & decision to risk the ire of the others present there, are for me the most sustainable basis of any understanding b/w two human beings. In a world, where all women claim to be Beethovens IM after his death, she is the only one who openly admits, he never loved her though she ‘loved him with all my heart’. She is that perfect friend who provides him with a home, a peaceful environment in which to compose again after deafness, debt, a broken heart & public scorn have all but driven him to the edge of madness. And she asks for nothing in return. But mind you, this is no weak woman. She lives through Napolean's invasion, the loss of her son & stands up to Beethoven when he deprives another mother of her son. After all, true love is never afraid to lose the object of its affection.

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