The Portrayal Of Genius In Bernard Rose's 1994 Film Immortal Beloved

1916 words - 8 pages

Ludwig van Beethoven has long been lauded as a master composer and brilliant musician, completely deaf by the end of his life, yet still capable of feats in music surpassing those who came before him, and those that have come since. Very few, if any, would dispute the genius of Beethoven's music. However, there is definite room for dispute on the portrayal of Beethoven's genius in Bernard Rose's Immortal Beloved (1994). The writer/director falls into the mythical archetype trap publicized by mass media, focusing on and magnifying the traits of the socially popular icon of genius without exploring the profile of the true genius in an effort to appease the societal demand for something that the public can recognize, understand, and conceivably identify with.There are many typical traits that make up the popular perception of genius. He is a mentally unbalanced person and his temperament is easily aroused, often because of mental illness and/or substance abuse. He is lonely and isolated, deemed a social outcast either by the local community or by his own accord, and has troubled personal relationships. The person is born endowed with super-human talents and a natural panache for the selected field, essentially requiring no training. He also has a seemingly ethereal insight that seems to transcend personal experience. These last two notions of genius date back to ancient Greece, when Muses were thought to breathe creativity into men. It was in this manner that the superhuman and sublime characterization of genius was brought about (Daitch and Hoddeson 5). This conception has only been cultivated further in popular iconography by writers such as Mary Shelly and Edgar Allen Poe, and with mainstream movies like Good Will Hunting. Geniuses are characterized as untrained, unprivileged, nonconforming, outrageous, solitary, and emotionally unstable people, possessed by their creative powers rather than endowed with them. Their genius becomes a burden rather than a gift, and ultimately they are consumed and damned by the powers over which they brood.Beethoven certainly embodies many of these qualities. His increasing deafness was the cause of a mounting isolation; not only was it forcing him into the life of a recluse, about which he was tremendously touchy and fierce, but it also caused him great bouts of depression. In a letter to a friend, Beethoven wrote, "I must confess that I lead a miserable life...as long as I live...I shall be God's most unhappy creature..." (Jones 58). As for relationships, his were certainly troubled. Beethoven was known to keep the company of many women, though he had a nasty knack of becoming involved with women who were either firmly attached to another man or exhibited little or no feeling for him. Alexander Thayer, when speaking of the pattern in Beethoven's relationships, said, "One all-absorbing but temporary passion, lasting until its object is married to a more favored lover, is forgotten in another destined to end in...

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