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Copying Beethoven
DVD disk
Mar 27, 2007 By: Mathew Plale
Copying Beethoven order
Director:
Agnieszka Holland

Actors:
Ed Harris
Diane Kruger
Joe Anderson

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
A young music student (Diane Kruger) is asked (and eager) to transcribe the muddled works of her idol, Ludwig van Beethoven (Ed Harris), who is growing mad in his final years.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
If Milos Forman’s Amadeus is the James Dean of faux-biopics, then Agnieszka Holland’s Copying Beethoven is the Luke Perry. And while it ultimately fails as even a tribute, there’s still something to admire in its efforts. With every element that misses, another aspect will hit.

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.
THE EXTRAS
Audio Commentary by Actor Ed Harris and Director Agnieszka Holland: Holland’s accent is very heavy, while Harris’ voice is a bit deep to enjoy for a feature-length commentary. But both have a sincere interest in Beethoven, as they spout out facts throughout. Harris prods along the track when it slows down by posing Holland with questions about her directorial choices. Good chemistry.

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.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
Copying Beethoven had more promise than it ultimately delivered. While many are likely to be dazzled by Harris' performance, just as many may find it to be a caricature. Not a bad film overall, just don't go in expecting Amadeus.
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