This passionately committed Beethoven biopic proves there's life in the old music yet. Held together by Oldman's harrumphing portrayal of the bad-tempered genius, it structures itself around the enduring enigma of the great man's last will (his entire estate went to an unidentified 'Immortal Beloved'), offering a potted personal history, a judicious selection of greatest hits, and an awe-struck contemplation of the creative process. Regrettably, the film-makers' defining question - is the Immortal Beloved youthful heart-throb Golino, world-weary countess Rossellini, or even his brother's wife, Ter Steege? - makes for only limited dramatic interest; and Oldman's performance consists chiefly of a wig, a scowl and a tantrum. The film's strength is writer/director Rose's determination to let the music carry as much of the emotional weight as possible. He builds exhilarating set-pieces from the Violin Concerto and the Eroica and proves a persuasive evangelist for the classical repertoire. The film may plod and pulse in equal measure, but the ecstatic visualisation of the climactic Ode to Joy is a triumph.
Cast and crew
Johanna Ter Steege