There must have been something in the drinking water in Bavaria, so many stars were rocking the classics in that place. And of course one of the Orchestral Giants of that place and era was Beethoven. Browsing through YouTube the other day I saw a portion of the Beethoven autobiographical movie. This autobiography of the Classical Great was not exactly too flattering but it wasn’t completely critical either. It was more or less a realistic portrayal of a mad genius.
Yes, I said, “mad” genius. Beethoven really was a kind of rock star in his day and this movie gave testament to that. But like many famous musicians today he had a lot of problems. Number one in this was his addiction to alcohol. The film showed him to be a complete alcoholic. He was either in his study perfecting his compositions, conducting in front of an Orchestra, or at the bottom of a beer bottle. The man loved to drink about as much as he loved playing music. I like the realistic portrayal, instead of putting him on a pedestal it showed him as a genius that had problems.
When I first played his music as a child I think I envisioned him as some master composer sitting in a walled in castle or some other majestic place. So it was interesting to see this film depict him as he most likely was. Not in a castle but in an upstairs apartment that to the chagrin of his downstairs neighbors was not even soundproofed!
One comical scene showed Beethoven leaning over a water basin pouring water over his head (low tech shower), then missing the bowl and dripping a bunch of water on the floor. The scene then cuts to his downstairs neighbors having the dirty Beethoven bathwater drip all over them and their food. The guy at the head of the table yells, “I know you are deaf you moron, but we are trying to eat!”
And of course Beethoven whose hearing loss was very real did not hear his neighbors yelling at him and just pleasantly continued on his way. That was another interesting aspect the film focused on, it portrayed his personal struggle with hearing loss and how he composed his final symphony while he was almost completely deaf. The movie was very realistic and very touching.