Friday, July 8, 2011

TODAY'S NUGGET: #73 WGA Script of All Time - Amadeus (1984)

[Quick Summary: In an insane asylum, Antonio Salieri recalls how he manipulated everything in his power so that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart cannot succeed - but fails.]

Salieri is a damned man.

He's a vindictive guy, consumed by jealousy, powerful, rich, & ...oh yeah, he's the protagonist.

How did the writer, Peter Shaffer, make the bad guy someone the audience actually sympathizes with? 

One reason is that it is easy to relate to Salieri

- He shows (NOT TELLS) his jealousy. 
- He wants to be the best composer (his goal), but Mozart is better.
- He is prideful (a universal flaw) which he struggles with.

Another reason is that Mozart is a tough antagonist.

Watch how the script uses music as an extension of Mozart...Mozart is pushing Salieri even though Mozart isn't in the room.

ex. "[Salieri] walks around and around his salon, reading the pages [Mozart's work] and dropping them on the floor when he is done with them. [This is the action we see on screen.]

We see his agonized and wondering face: he shudders as if in a rough and tumbling sea; he experiences the point where beauty and great pain coalesce.... [This is the reaction shot to the music, i.e., his enemy Mozart.]

Finally we hear the tremendous Qui Tollis from the Mass in C Minor. It seems to break over him like a wave and, unable to bear any more of it, he slams the portfolio shut. [Salieri & Mozart have battled.]

Instantly the music breaks off, reverberating in his head. [The stakes have risen. Salieri knows he's lost to Mozart & is shaken.]

He stands shaking, staring wildly. Constanze [Mozart's wife] gets up, perplexed.

CONSTANZE: Is it no good?
A pause.
SALIERI: It is miraculous."

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: A bad guy is sympathetic if he's flawed & human.

Amadeus (1984)
by Peter Shaffer

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