Copying Beethoven is not a series of showstopping moments, every second marvelous filmmaking, as Amadeus is. Instead, Holland’s film only offers one moment of exuberance. The Ninth Symphony scene is a tremendous achievement…by Beethoven, anyhow. Holland begins delicately with her camera, then lifts us from the harmonic wonders of the Ninth with chaotic rock ‘n roll camerawork that seems more suiting in Tommy.
Ashley Rowe’s cinematography ranges from irritatingly modern to lushness reminiscent of John Alcott’s work on Barry Lyndon. The beautiful look immerses us in early 19th-century Vienna, a genuine trademark of a period piece. Unfortunately, the contrasting collection of jumpcuts, quick zooms, and handheld camera transports us back to 21st-century music videos.
Not unlike the camerawork, the chemistry and performances are hit-or-miss. Like the maestro and Holtz, Harris and Kruger’s performances take too long to warm up to another. Ed Harris gives a complex (if over-the-top) performance as an oversimplified version of Ludwig van Beethoven, while Diane Kruger is emotionless as young composition student Anne Holtz. Kruger’s theatrical moments with Beethoven’s nephew, Karl (Joe Anderson), play out like daytime television, all in the quest to out-act the other.
The entire film feels like one drawn-out lovesong to Beethoven and classical music as a whole, instead of reaching the potential it could have. With her “genius this, artist that” mindset, Holland has directed quite the pretentious little work.
Spotty chemistry and cinematography weave in an unsatisfying structure in Copying Beethoven, an underdeveloped Amadeus. Someday, maybe we’ll get a tremendous biopic on Ludwig van Beethoven.
Five Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary by Holland (8:09): Just a few throwaways with more inane dialogue. Nothing special.
Orchestrating Copying Beethoven (9:55): The cast and crew discuss their love for Beethoven, and how they developed their knowledge and appreciation for the German composer. Most of this piece focuses on the Ninth Symphony sequence. Simple, but interesting.