Joseph Epstein refers to the Mozart of Amadeus
as "a vulgar little man who managed to produce a stream of
imperishable works of art." Epstein sounds like Mozart's
archrival, Salieri, the film's personification of mediocrity
(although even Salieri seemed to more appreciate Mozart's
Mozart, grasping life intensely, practiced
personal excesses, which eventually cost him his wife and life
(although his hostile environment must share the blame) -- this
probably was a historically accurate portrayal. However, the
word "vulgar", which Mr. Epstein chose, refers to things not
only unappealing but also common. Mozart's character, painted
realistically, in shades of gray, not simplistic strokes of
black and white, was indeed human; and that illustrated
the major theme: Humanism, the creative force of
classical Greece and Rome, rediscovered in the Renaissance and
under attack ever since.
Humanism stresses that although nobody's
perfect, all people are created equal and, yet, are individuals.
Modern history has often been graced by a humanistic courage to
believe in the artistic, technological, and political potential
of sometimes "vulgar little" people, such as you or me, and
not to simply give in to the whims of a powerful, all-too-often
superficial and mediocre ruling "Dynasty", as in Mozart's
day or our own.
America, herself, was established as an
experiment in such Humanism, relegating the notion of an inborn
superiority of nobility to the dustbin of history; and art such
as Amadeus that celebrates Humanism and is appreciated by
critics and the public alike is an encouraging sign that our
democratic experiment (although badgered by the likes of the "Moral Majority", who hate
"secular Humanism") may
indeed endure. Kudos to the film's makers and fans and to
wise, courageous Oscar®!