starring Ed Harris, Diane Kruger, Ralph Riach, Matthew Good and Joe Anderson
written by Stephen J. Rivele and Christopher Wilkinson
directed by Agnieszka Holland
I like Ed Harris, and I think this is a good film but not a great one - not worth watching a second time, unless it’s the music you want to hear - especially the performance of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony which is the centerpiece of the movie. That symphony ends with the famous choral ending, the “Ode to Joy” that is currently used as an “international anthem” by the European Union. You would instantly recognize it if you heard it. Copying Beethoven has a distinctly Made-for-TV quality to it, although it was not.
Set three years before his death in 1927, the story records the interaction of the infamously bad-tempered, deaf Beethoven with a female copyist, Anna (Diane Kruger), brought in to help prepare the scores for the debut of the 9th Symphony. A note at the end of the film claims it is based on real events, but that could mean almost anything.
After the 9th Symphony Beethoven’s next big project was the string quartet“Gross Fugue” in B Flat. Today it is regarded as an inspired, before-its-time piece of music, marking Beethoven’s last effort to break new ground, take music to a place it had never visited before, and make a clear statement about his philosophy of music. But in the 1820s it was disdained and rejected for its cacophony. And truly, even to my 2007 ears, it is difficult to listen to. I didn’t know it at the time, but the film opens with the Grosse Fugue - embellishing a wild coach ride through the country by Anna to reach her dying teacher in the city.
If you are interested in Beethoven and in classical music then by all means see Copying Beethoven. But I think Gary Oldman’s portrayal of the deaf Beethoven in another movie is much better, probably because Gary Oldman is a much better actor than Ed Harris.
Incidentally,Copying Beethoven was filmed on location in Hungary.